A Breakthrough Year for Solar

By:Tom Werner

December 18, 2015

The California Valley Solar Ranch project powers an estimated 100,000 homes.

Editors Note: In 2020, SunPower announced the completion of the strategic spin-off of its manufacturing division into a separate business named Maxeon Solar Technologies, Ltd. As a result, SunPower has expanded its offerings to drive future growth. The SunPower Equinox® system now offers multiple panel options, including front- and back-contact panels, all of which are responsibly and rigorously quality tested to provide the best energy solution for your home.

As I was traveling back from the COP21 climate talks in Paris last week I spent some time reflecting on how far we’ve come – both as a company and an industry – in helping to change the way businesses, households and entire communities are powered. In short, we’ve come a long way since SunPower’s founding 30 years ago, and our daily conversations with customers across the globe have reinforced the lasting momentum behind solar. 

It goes without saying that 2015 has been a breakthrough year.

With the U.S. Congress voting today to approve a five-year extension of the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), we have a fresh runway that will only accelerate the global energy transformation.

Every day, we see firsthand how innovation and robust market demand are making it easier for customers to realize the full potential of solar. The action taken by Congress provides a timely sense of certainty and allows for new investments that might not have been possible in its absence.

For millions of existing and future solar energy customers cost is no longer an access barrier. Over the past five years the cost of solar has dropped 78 percent. I believe that in the next five years solar will be cost competitive in every market.

For the market broadly, a shift in focus from the ITC provides a lower risk premium at a time when the economic opportunities in our industry are increasing by the day. One-in-78 U.S. jobs created in 2014 was connected to solar.  For young entrepreneurs and innovators looking to develop new technologies that comprise the solar systems of tomorrow, the opportunities are endless.

In many ways, the current solar industry is not unlike the high-tech sector of the past three decades. Prior to the advent of the Internet, the most innovative PCs could only be found on Wall Street or in large enterprises. Today, we walk around with them in our hands and store gigabytes upon gigabytes of files in the cloud. Solar is following a similar path – and at a very rapid pace.

For businesses and utilities, we’re entering 2016 with the right conditions to focus on multi-year project commitments. Beyond our industry, this is good for the bottom line of every sector and will help companies achieve environmental and economic goals well into the future.

Finally, the enthusiasm coming out of COP21 is a clear indicator that the global business community is ready to roll up its sleeves and continue taking the lead in driving a clean energy transformation. As I wrote in the San Jose Mercury News last week, the blueprint exists to shift the climate focus from “what” and “who” to the “how,” which will be critical to ensuring the agreement’s ultimate success.

Innovative organizations from Stanford to Macy's are achieving their sustainability goals through customizable solar programs.

Climate change is no longer just an ideological debate, but one that's dealt with through innovation and solar energy solutions — what’s best for customers and creating long-term value across the global economy.

We head into the new year on an optimistic and innovative, yet unfinished, note. We wouldn’t be where we are without our customers and employees, who inspire and empower us every day. We’re constantly learning, listening and identifying new opportunities to innovate together. As a team, we can’t wait to build on the progress of 2015.

If you haven’t had a chance to watch teen slam poetry winner Abel H. perform his original piece titled “Something About Energy,” I encourage you to take a few moments to watch the video by clicking here. He perfectly captures why we can’t let this critical moment in history pass us by. 

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