The value of solar PV completed in 2011 alone in the U.S. is $8.4 billion. Globally, the value was $93 billion. 100,000 people are employed by 5,600 solar companies throughout the U.S. - across all 50 states.

Q&A with Rhone Resch, President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association

Rhone Resch | Solar Energy Industries Association

What is the primary mandate of the Solar Energy Industries Association - SEIA?

SEIA’s primary mandate is to expand the U.S. solar energy market.  Through advocacy and education, SEIA is building a strong solar industry to power America.  As the voice of the industry, SEIA works with its member companies to make solar a mainstream and significant energy source by expanding markets, removing market barriers, strengthening the industry and educating the public on the benefits of solar energy.  The bottom line, is that SEIA creates policy that opens markets for solar energy.  In January 2012, SEIA merged with the Solar Alliance, an advocacy organization working to establishing solar policies at the state level.  Without SEIA’s efforts over the last eight years, the industry would be small fraction of our current size.  Today, SEIA presents a unified solar industry voice in key state and federal advocacy efforts. Our member companies research, manufacture, distribute, finance, and build U.S. solar projects for residential, commercial, nonprofit, government and utility customers.

What makes SPI so important and valuable to the solar industry?

Solar Power International (SPI) is one of the largest solar conferences in the world, bringing together 20,000 professionals involved in the solar industry.  It helps generate growth in the solar industry by bringing people together, spurring collaboration and connections that help bring new projects online – while solidifying both long standing relationships and new business deals.

What is overall role of the SPI conference?

Solar Power International (SPI) is North America’s premier business-to-business event for professionals in solar energy and related fields.  Solar Power International is attended by 20,000 professionals from 100+ countries; approximately 20% of attendees come from outside the U.S.  About 900 companies from across the solar power spectrum will exhibit on a 300,000 square foot tradeshow floor.  SPI’s program brings in notable industry experts who present at more than 50 general and concurrent sessions.  SEIA and SEPA, two nonprofit organizations, co-present SPI each year.  All proceeds from Solar Power International are used to further the associations' mission: to support and advance U.S. solar markets through market-building and educational initiatives.
At SPI 2012 in Orlando, show participants will gain exposure to a new market for solar, new products, service providers and professionals.  

And generate lots of new connections among colleagues and contacts.  SPI attendees include professionals whose work and success involves the solar energy industry, including:

Installers and contractors
Engineering firms
Government representatives and policymakers
Investors and financiers
Architects, builders and developers
Exhibiting companies represent:

PV Cells and Modules
Balance of Systems
Material and Equipment Suppliers
Distributors/Integrators/Installers/Solar Service Providers
Concentrating Solar Power (CSP), Solar Thermal Electric & Concentrating PV (CPV)
Solar water heating
Other Products and Services

Why was Bill Clinton chosen to be the featured keynoter?

The 42nd President of the United States and the founder of the Clinton Global Initiative, Bill Clinton is a visionary leader and an outstanding advocate for solar and renewable energy.  

We are honored and delighted to have him deliver the keynote address at SPI.

Any specific reason for selecting Orlando as site of SPI ’12?

First, Florida –the Sunshine State– has potential to be a major market for solar.  But their policies lag far behind other states.  Having SPI in Florida will help educate elected officials on the size and diversity of today’s solar industry and the great potential this state has for tapping into their massive domestic energy resource.  Second, Orlando has a beautiful, solar-powered convention center that can accommodate our growing conference and trade show.  SPI has seen tremendous growth in exhibitors and attendance over the last five years, while many other industry tradeshows have seen declining numbers.  Additionally, as home to Disney World, Orlando is a very attractive location that draws thousands of visitors each year.

What is the current status of solar industry in the US?

  • The U.S. now has over 5,000 MW (megawatts) of installed solar capacity and 2012 is expected to be a record year for added growth.
  • In Q1 2012 alone, 506 MW of solar power was installed in the U.S. — up 85% from Q1 2011.   
  • Since the beginning of 2010, the average cost of a solar electric system has dropped by more than 30 percent; solar is now affordable for more families and companies.
  • Thanks to leasing programs and power purchase agreements, individuals, U.S. businesses, non-profits, and governmental organizations are installing solar with $0 (zero) capital expenditure.
  • Solar works for America; it’s an economic growth engine.  More than 100,000 Americans work in the solar industry; employment in this sector of the economy has DOUBLED in two years.
  • There are 5,600 solar companies in the United States; these companies are located across all 50 states.
  • By removing constraints from the electrical grid, especially when there’s high demand for electricity, solar plays a significant role in helping to prevent blackouts and brownouts.
  • Some of the smartest, most successful companies and organizations in the world are deploying solar — including Apple, FedEx, GE, Google, IKEA, Wal-Mart, Target, the U.S. military, etc.
  • The U.S. military is deploying many, many MWs of solar, here in the U.S. and overseas. Additionally, the solar industry is hiring many returning combat veterans — and returning veterans are starting solar companies.

What is the estimated value of solar installations in the US?

The value of solar PV completed in 2011 alone in the U.S. is $8.4 billion. Globally, the value was $93 billion.

Approximately how many US workers are employed in the solar industry?

100,000 people are employed by 5,600 solar companies throughout the U.S. – across all 50 states.

What role if any do you feel Government should play in the solar industry?

Thoughtful policy initiatives and incentives on the federal and state level, along with significant costs reductions, have helped drive the growth of solar technology.  Historically, incentives have played a vital role in taking energy resources and technologies from initial inception to mainstream adoption.
The U.S. can accelerate its solar market leadership if we continue to flex our business acumen — and exercise the political will to advance clean technologies.
By implementing the right incentives, consistently, the government can play a critical role in providing a greater measure of certainty for companies investing in solar – and building out manufacturing, installation, component, and financing businesses.

Can you look into your crystal ball and give us your vision of the next 5- 10 years of solar industry evolution in the US?

We’re on an upward trajectory; the prospects for further solar deployment are very sunny.  Solar deployments are going to increase exponentially in the months and years ahead.  Thanks to economies of scale, the price of solar will continue to drop.  We forecast that well over 9 GW of PV and CSP will be installed in 2016 alone.

We’ll see increased consolidation, too, as our industry grows and matures.
The solar industry will continue to be an economic growth engine, creating thousands of jobs in manufacturing, installation, investment, finance, contracting, design, development, engineering, constructing, building, installation, utility deployment, advocacy, marketing and education.


Rhone Resch
Solar Energy Industries Association

Rhone Resch is the President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the national trade association for the solar energy industry in the United States. Representing an industry of over 5,000 companies and 100,000 employees, Rhone is the architect of the association's strategic priorities designed to achieve a 10 GW annual market in the US by 2015, including all federal and state advocacy on behalf of the industry. In the last eight years as the President of SEIA, he created the 30% investment tax credit, the 1603 Treasury Program, and over 18 other provisions that have helped grow the industry from 52 MW/yr market in 2004 to nearly 2,000 MW/yr today.

A self-proclaimed political junkie, Rhone has over 20 years of experience in the public and private sector working on clean energy development and climate change issues. In addition to serving as the Vice President for the Natural Gas Supply Association, Rhone also served as Program Manager at the EPA's Climate Protection Division during the Clinton administration.

Rhone holds an MPA in Management from Syracuse University's Maxwell School, a Master of Environmental Engineering from SUNY Syracuse, and a B.A. from the University of Michigan. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife Lisa and two children in a solar-powered house that provides 93% of their electricity.

The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag

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