Ted Sullivan Interview Part II
Part II of our interview with Ted Sullivan, Senior Analyst at Lux Research, as he discusses the findings of his report from Lux Research entitled “Solar State of the Market Q3 2008: The Rocky Road to $100 Billion."
Bright Hub: Germany is currently a leader in solar power, so why does the United States lag so far behind in terms of solar usage? What motivated the Germans to invest so much in this power?
Ted Sullivan: Germany is currently the leader in solar power because it has not only offered a healthy subsidy for many more years than the U.S., but more importantly, it does not impose a massive bureaucratic barrier to approving new solar systems. Typically, a solar system in Germany requires one inspection and a few pages of paperwork before it can be connected to the grid, compared to up to a dozen inspections and a phone-book of paperwork in the U.S.
German and Japan are the leaders in solar development primarily because they remain two of the most resource constrained, developed countries on the planet. Witness Germany's massive dependency on Russia for most of its natural gas -- solar power's closest competitor.
BH: Will Germany maintain its worldwide lead on solar power, especially given the size of the United States compared to Germany?
Of course, Germany will not maintain its lead forever and we expect the U.S., China and India to eventually overtake it in terms of MW installed. Indeed, that may be sooner rather than later as Germany is beginning to run up against the limits of its electricity grid to effectively transport distributed, intermittent renewable resources.
BH: Is solar a technology that is going to have regional limitations? That is Los Angeles can do more with solar power than say Seattle?
TS: Yes, solar will indeed have regional limitations but they will not be a binary "yes, this region can have solar and this region can't." Instead, there are a number of different solar technologies, which are ideally suited for different environments. For example, solar thermal and thin film technologies thrive in the desert, where the heat causes the output of crystalline silicon technologies to decline dramatically. Thin film technologies are also well suited for cloudy, northern regions, where they can harvest sunlight even without direct sunlight.