From the roof of my condo complex in a sunny part of San Francisco, I can see solar panels on at least a few houses on each surrounding block.
Danny Kennedy, co-founder of Sungevity (the fastest growing company in the residential segment of the solar industry), joined EcoTuesday in July to 'shed some light' on the industry. Over 60 participants from all areas of sustainability joined us at the beautiful Bently Reserve.
Danny's expressed that the solar industry is looking good. There are plenty of jobs and the number will continue to increase as people begin to realize the potential of solar. "The solar industry already employees more people then the U.S steel production industry."
Although solar is currently less than 2% of the overall electricity use in the U.S economy, the exponential growth that is happening will fill the gap. Solar production has doubled - three times in the past three years. The price for solar will continue to decrease, making it more and more accessible for mainstream consumers to purchase. As the price of solar is decreasing, everything else (coal and other fossil fuels), are increasing in price. Solar power will soon be the low cost source of electricity as a result of this growth rate. Sixty percent of Sungevity's customers are in California, and Sungevity saves their customers 15% a month from day one with their particular solar product.
Danny pointed out that "the United States uses 47% of its surface water for steam generation for turbines" (turbines which are used to power fossil fuel stations). He continued, "fossil fuels will be a part of our future for some time. The longer we prolong its use, our children will be worse off. The faster we adopt the lower cost technologies, the better off we are, from both a financial and environmental point of view."
Over the past few years, women have made great strides in all areas of sustainability. For example, women hold key positions in large solar companies, are driving sustainability initiatives in Fortune 500 companies, and have started businesses that have greatly impacted the food industry.
There's still so much more to accomplish!
On August 10, 1839, the eminent Russian physicist Aleksandr Grigorievich Stoletov is born (August 10, 1839-May 27, 1896). Stoletov built the first solar cell based on the outer photoelectric effect (discovered by Heinrich Hertz in 1887).
Born to the family of merchants in 1839, Alexander’s early life was one of study. He learned to read by the time he was four. Between 1849 and 1860 Stoletov studied physics and mathematics at Moscow State University, where he would become a teacher in 1865. As a professor worked to establish a physics laboratory for the school (which opened in 1872), so students would not have to go abroad to preform research. By his mid life, Stoletov was a world renown physicist, having developed a theory of “electro-techniques” and discovered important patterns in the magnetism of iron.
In 1888, he turned his attention to the photo effect, which was discovered by Hertz the year before. He built the first solar cell based on Hertz’s theory and earlier solar technology developed by Charles Fritts in 1883. Stoletov’s cell was more stable and reliable than the highly inefficient Fritts model. But it was not until Russell Ohl patented the idea of the junction semiconductor solar cell in 1946, that the modern day solar panel was born.
Additional Stoletov contributions to solar energy also includes the fact that solar cells decrease in efficiency as they age and the direct proportional link between the intensity of electromagnetic radiation acting on a metallic surface and the photocurrent induced by this radiation. This became known as Stoletov’s Law.
Chris Clark of Sunflower Solutions wowed a diverse crowd at our April 27th EcoTuesday event here in downtown Cleveland with an authentic delivery and unprecedented demonstration of his innovative solar technology at the Club at Key Center. His unique application of manually-adustable solar panels that track the sun over time is already changing the world in countries like Haiti, India, Kenya, and Nigeria - one installed Empower Plant at a time.
Chris, who is just 23 years of age and already a recipient of a $30,000 Civic Innovation Lab grant here locally, started by telling a bit of his story - how he had been conducting internatinoal aid and relief work overseas and started seeing the need to solve societal problems through eco-innovation. Another early invention of his was a solar-based water pump to allow for potable water to reach more people in African villages with a dearth of clean sources of electricity- if any electricity.. at all. Most electrical power in such places is delivered off the grid, but it is usually sourced via gasoline and diesel generators which require constant refilling and exposure to unhealthy fuel and fumes, not to mention unnecessary energy expenditure to obtain the fuel.
Another great asset of the design lies in its simplicity - though other solar arrays exist which track the sun to deliver similar yields of up to 40 percent over conventional solar, they are very complex and expensive. The Empower Plant is unique worldwide in its simplicity of use and provision of such capability using human power - a special color-coded system guiding even a small child to easily position equipment weighing hundreds of pounds in seconds, three times daily. This way the expensive automated tracking systems which are not feasible in the developing world are nearly matched in efficiency by Sunflower. This is especially valuable in places where advanced technology expertise and maintainance capability is still lacking - it sometimes helps, as Chris reminded us, to keep in mind that over 2 billion people worldwide still lack electricity.
The company mission is to work with NGOs, nonprofits, and people serving globally to help empower and educate people with the tools and education needed to bring affordable solar anywhere in the world, wherever and whenever it is needed the most. Over time one Empower Plant can save over $100,000 over the prevailing paradigm of fuel generator use. Also redeeming was the commitment this promising company has made to remain in Cleveland and use Cleveland-made parts. Ohio Governor Ted Strickland recently put it this way: " Sunflower Solutions. Dreamed up in Ohio. Designed in Ohio. Made in Ohio. And serving the world."
It was an honor for Cleveland EcoTuesday to host Chris Clark and his team and allow them the opportunity to tell a powerful story, make valued connections, and demonstrate their world-changing solar technology.
For our third EcoTuesday event we proudly feature local social entrepreneur and eco-innovator Chris Clark of Sunflower Solutions. This innovative company features easy-to-use, manually adjustable solar panels that track the sun over time to maximize energy collection. The company has recently been praised by Governor Strickland and was the latest recipient of a $30,000 grant from the Civic Innovation Lab.