Election won’t remake solar industry landscape, officials say

The winner of the presidential election on Nov. 6 might not make much difference to the U.S. solar industry because momentum in job growth and project development is mostly promoted at the state level.

That verdict was given by leader of the solar industry gathered at the Solar Power International conference going on in Orlando. An executive forum was held on Sept. 11, where the world’s largest gathering is sponsored by the Solar Electric Power Association and the Solar Energy Industries Association.

State renewable portfolio standards, job growth at the state and local level, and a more competitive pricing environment were cited as some of the key factors that will drive the industry’s growth, even if Republicans, perceived by some as anti-renewable energy regain the presidency.

The executives are banking on partisan sniping over renewable energy will dissipate after the election regardless of the outcome.

“What’s important is seeing that here is bipartisan support for renewable energy at most levels of government, which is not wholly dependent upon the executive branch,” said Nancy Pfund, Managing Partner, DBL Investors, a venture capital firm in the high tech and clean energy industries.

Jurgen Krehnke, President & General Manager, SMA America, LLC and President, SMA Canada, the world’s largest inverter manufacturer, lamented the current discourse as unrepresentative of what’s really happening in solar. “If not for Solyndra, which really was a glorified startup … then we really wouldn’t be hearing about this and it wouldn’t have become a political issue.”

Pfund agreed. “Many of the red states are where the fastest growth in cleantech and renewable energy jobs are occurring,” she added.

DBL just compiled a report that documents the growth in cleantech employment, citing job growth and favorable policies in places like Texas, Kansas, Louisiana and elsewhere.

“There are governors whose priority is in bringing jobs to their states and they see cleantech as a way, regardless of the partisan rhetoric you hear now,” Pfund said.

SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch said much credit – but not all — should go to President Obama, as the installed capacity has grown from 300 MW to 3,200 MW during his term in office. But the industry would continue to grow based on its momentum over the past few years, driven by lower costs, technology improvements and consumer demand. Those trends will continue, he said.