Solar is a huge success story for the renewable energy industry, which has grown exponentially in recent years — to the point where you can now find solar panels in more and more places.
Solar power is energizing some of the most iconic locations throughout the world: The Eiffel Tower, Vatican City and Taj Mahal have all installed or plan to install solar arrays to offset their energy demand. In 2010, Vatican City completed the installation of 100 megawatts of solar power, which will make it the first solar-powered nation.
As technology costs decline and financial structures evolve, solar has expanded beyond utility and commercial scale projects to a feasible and affordable source of energy for homeowners regardless of income level. In the process, we have educated a wide consumer base on the benefits of solar and created many new fans. This widespread use has also resulted in a significant shift in the national conversation surrounding solar, from a fringe concept to one that permeates mainstream culture.
The changing dynamics and increased competition in the solar market — and particularly the residential solar market—have led the industry to increase its visibility among consumers in a number of ways. We have found that strategic solar partnerships with organizations such as the National Football League, main street retailers and major hotel chains play a significant role in making solar power increasingly more familiar.
In just the last few years, teams in the National Football League (primarily through partnerships with NRG Energy) have been installing solar panels in stadiums across the country to reduce the amount of energy they pull from the grid. Stadiums that have PV installations include MetLife Stadium, Levi’s Stadium, Gillette Stadium, FedEx Field and Lincoln Financial Field. This was most noticeable at this year’s Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium where its 1,350 solar panels were on display during aerial shots for more than 111 million viewers across the U.S.
Home Depot has also jumped into the solar business by partnering with residential solar companies to offer customers in-store solar solutions. Hundreds of Home Depot stores now host solar kiosks where customers can learn more about their home solar options.
A new but growing area of solar is personal solar which is showing up on more and more shelves in stores across the nation. One of the companies making this possible, Goal Zero, which recently joined the NRG family, markets a suite of portable solar power and battery-pack products to consumers who want personal energy free from the tether of a plug and cord.
As the solar industry becomes more and more consumer facing, it has started to move toward a point where residential solar installers actually become household brands. As more and more homeowners take advantage of the ever improving economics of rooftop solar panels, it is clear that an installer’s brand and consumer awareness will influence homeowners as they decide who to select as their partner.
Recently, our team at NRG Home Solar made the decision to sign NBA hall of famer Bill Walton as the voice of the company’s home solar solutions. This opportunity allowed Bill to join a movement to change the way homeowners think about their energy use by bringing mainstream credibility to solar.
Does this mean that we’ll see more and more developers and installers competing by signing on celebrities to endorse their companies similar to what we’ve seen in other high-profile consumer brands? That remains to be seen, but what is clear is that solar is becoming more mainstream every day as we witness the forward trajectory of our industry.
Kelcy Pegler Jr. is president of NRG Home Solar, one of the country’s leading solar companies specializing in the installation of residential solar PV. You can see other posts from the NRG Home Solar at their blog here and on Twitter @NRGHomeSolar.