The success of new and emerging PV technologies can have a profound effect on our economy, providing a much-needed shot in the arm for various industrial sectors, while also paving the way for future technological advancements.

Shouting From the Rooftops: The Importance of Promoting Technological Innovations in Solar Energy

Jonathan Gosberg | Gosberg Public Relations, LLC


As the global economy continues along the road to recovery, the current landscape has been challenging for the solar energy industry. Existing federal subsidies for solar power installation projects are due to expire at the end of the year, removing a key incentive for end-users to make an initial investment in sustainable energy. In addition, competition from China – fair and otherwise – has led many U.S. manufacturers to make drastic cuts to their manufacturing capabilities. That said, the future outlook for solar power is not all doom and gloom. 
 
The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) recently issued a report highlighting specific recommendations to meet growing U.S. energy needs. The report calls for changes that will increase economic competitiveness and environmental stewardship. More importantly, the report calls for a $10B increase in federal investment in R&D to develop innovative energy-efficient technologies, as well as a review of existing subsidies and incentives.[1] This is certainly good news, but this alone will not be enough to truly spur an industry.  
 
While no one can deny the growing global demand for energy, as well as the leaps and bounds being made in photovoltaic (PV) technologies, potential adopters of sustainable energies are still feeling the effects of the ongoing global economic crisis. In short – during challenging economic times, no one wants to take a perceived gamble. In order to change this perception and make gains on fossil fuels, the solar industry is going to have to proactively turn up the volume on promoting the latest innovations in high-performance, cost-effective technologies. 
 
Manufacturers of PV modules and module components are on the forefront of new and emerging technologies. As such, they are going to need to take immediate action to differentiate themselves from their peers and competitors in order to successfully bring their products to market. To drive business, these companies need to 1) create industry awareness surrounding their technology, and 2) make the business case. Sounds simple enough, right?  
 
Creating industry awareness
PV module and component manufacturers need to first create awareness, or “buzz” that will attract increased interest in their new technologies and its various applications. Whether that means thin-film module components or integrated solar shingle technology, one way to do this is to link the technology directly or indirectly to an over-arching issue that is important to an industry, as a whole. For example, environmental stewardship has become the industrial cause célèbre of our day. If “Company A” has developed a cleaner, faster, and less expensive way to generate energy, it can then enter the environmental sustainability arena through various vehicles (media, tradeshow exhibits, online, etc.) to add its two-cents and promote its stance on the matter. Clearly in favor of environmentally-friendly industrial practices, this will serve to solidify Company A’s position as a thought leader on the topic. Enough positive exposure in the right places including but not limited to strategically targeted trade publications, tradeshow dailies, and association newsletters can even allow Company A to take ownership of the dialogue surrounding an issue, further increasing its visibility and inherent credibility.    
 
While daunting at times, it is only fitting that one make use of available technology to promote emerging technology. In industries where peer opinion carries weight and people expect vital information at their fingertips, social media can have its place in the savvy marketing of new technologies. While this does not necessarily call for a presence on MySpace or Facebook, blogs, podcasts and discussion groups can all play an active part in providing important industry news and advice, increasing awareness of and interest in a new or emerging PV technology. 
 
In addition, industry blogs can be a useful tool for gleaning valuable information, helping to determine how best to communicate the benefits of PV technology to one’s customers. Careful monitoring and analysis of various industry-specific blogs can help reveal the priorities and concerns of targeted audiences. This can allow Company A to determine which performance benefits are most important to its customers/potential customers (i.e. cost efficiency vs. environmental sustainability) and even how specific audiences discuss these topics – valuable information when honing one’s key messaging. While it does require valuable time and resources, when used effectively, blog monitoring can be like front-row seats to a series of diverse focus groups. 
 
Making the Business Case
So now key decision makers are aware of Company A’s innovative PV technology. It is on their radar screens and they have begun making inquiries. Their purse-strings, however, are still drawn shut. These potential customers are going to need a credible and compelling reason to invest in a new and relatively untested technology. What better way to do this than to show key decision makers the concrete gains that early adopters – possibly even their competitors – are making with Company A’s unique technology?
 
Assuming that Company A’s technology delivers on its performance promises – effectively generating low-cost power – Company A needs to develop a case study, highlighting the various benefits associated with the use of its technology. For example, “Customer X” utilizing Company A’s innovative PV module or module component technology has been able to supply a considerable portion of their building’s energy needs, recouping their initial investment and approaching grid parity. They have installed a dependable and sustainable source of power that will save them significant overhead for years to come. As a result, they have already begun talks with Company A to retrofit their other manufacturing facilities throughout North America with this new and dependable PV technology. 
 
In addition to the obvious value of a good customer testimonial, such a story, clearly demonstrating the business case, can be leveraged in many ways. A solid case study can be used as a feature article in trade publications, trade show collateral, corporate website content, and sales literature, to list a few. A case study can also further serve to solidify relationships with featured customers – no small thing in today’s competitive marketplace.
 
By creating positive industry awareness and then presenting a strong business case, PV module manufacturers, like Company A, can break the traditional sales cycle, start making some headway, and begin identifying qualified sales leads. From a broader perspective, it is important to remember that the effective promotion of these technologies goes well beyond the simple success or failure of Company A. The success of new and emerging PV technologies can have a profound effect on our economy, providing a much-needed shot in the arm for various industrial sectors, while also paving the way for future technological advancements. 
 
 
About the author:
 
Jonathan Gosberg, principal, Gosberg Public Relations, LLC
Jonathan began Gosberg Public Relations, LLC in March 2009. His public relations background includes public affairs, corporate affairs, B2B, healthcare, and media relations. Prior to starting Gosberg Public Relations, Jonathan worked at Porter Novelli, Burson-Marsteller, and ABI, a mid-sized B2B marketing public relations firm. Jonathan has carried out public relations efforts for Saint-Gobain Solar, The Dow Chemical Company, the Eastman Chemical Company, SiGNa Chemistry, Luvata, FS-Elliott, and Eli Lilly. 


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