Wednesday, June 15, 2011

CNBC recognizes SJSU solar research

On Monday, CNBC reported on the challenges of solar adoption in a posting entitled “Does the Solar Industry Have a PR Problem?” The jumping-off point for the story by Matt Hunter was a study done by SJSU students from the Sbona Honors Program.

The five marketing honors students — Faith Ebrahimim, Irene Foelschow, Morgan Hancock, Jennifer Sarvian, Tam Tran — completed their study of Silicon Valley (non) adoption in December, and reported their results at a March webinar hosted by SolarTech. This was one of 5 SHP projects sponsored by SolarTech over the past three semesters; I was the faculty advisor or a consulting faculty member for all five.

Here are some excerpts of the CNBC report, which was based on the final project report:
So, what's not to like about solar technology and why hasn't it been adopted by the masses? Is there something wrong with the technology, or does solar just suffer from bad PR?

A recent survey (by solar industry advocate SolarTech and San Jose State University) suggests the latter. A perfect target demographic for solar power — well-off residents of California’s Silicon Valley — have a rather sour perspective on the industry.

According to the survey, only 39 percent of those surveyed saw solar energy as ‘reliable’, and only another 11 percent see it as affordable.

"A lot of advertising dollars are not reaching consumers' ears,” says David McFeely, a director at SolarTech.

Jim Nelson, CEO of solar manufacturer Solar3D, says that, true to the perception, solar technology is not quite ready for prime time.

The problem, says Nelson, is that solar is generally still not price competitive with fossil fuels for energy generation, says Nelson. Paradoxically, government efforts to subsidize the purchase of solar panels actually slow down the adoption of innovation that should ultimately make renewable energy more affordable.
The article also quotes David McFeely of SolarTech as saying local permitting delays and costs are a factor in slowing adoption — the subject of two other SHP student projects, including one just finished last month. (More later).

In the College of Business, we’re used to getting mentioned in the local Mercury-News, but national visibility — particularly for a student effort — is much more rare. Congrats to the students for the recognition of their hard work and value-added.