Radio Archive: ImagineSolar Minute

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Every Thursday from 1 to 2 PM, the Shades of Green program – Austin’s Live Green Talk Radio Show — airs on Austin’s 91.7 FM KOOP Radio.  Locals John Hoffner (CH2M Hill Renewable Energy Manager, above left) and Reed Sternberg (Texas Green Network Founder) chat about Green topics impacting Austin-San Antonio and the industry.

ImagineSolar CEO Michael Kuhn (above middle) is an industry leader and informed voice on cutting-edge solar initiatives.  He has contributed to past episodes of Shades of Green in a segment called “The ImagineSolar Minute”.  As a featured guest, Michael gave listeners breakthrough news about Solar and Smart Grid developments and opportunities.

In October 2011, Michael appeared on Shades of Green’s ‘Solar Energy’ broadcast with:
• Tom Kimbis – former Director of the U.S. DOE’s Solar Market Transformation program and current SEIA VP of External Affairs–and
Jane Pulaski (above right) – Communications Director at the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC).  

They had a lively discussion, including feedback on North America’s largest solar conference, SPI, which was held in Dallas-Ft. Worth in 2011.
 
Listen to their October 27, 2011 “Solar Energy” broadcast here:

 

Broadcast highlights include:

John Hoffner (Host): Michael, one of your roles in your company is to get those people into [the solar] job industry… Tell us about what ImagineSolar does as far as how you get those people trained?  The program actually coincides with a lot of what Jane does with NABCEP.

Michael Kuhn (ImagineSolar): We do training in multiple ways. We have online courses, we have online-LIVE, and we also have onsite training. We’ve been expanding into 5 states and 11 cities, and we’re also expanding the course offerings we have so we can better serve degreed professionals as well as electricians, engineers and architects.

John Hoffner (Host): Didn’t IREC come up with NABCEP or the actual certification? So you teach courses there, Michael, that give people enough knowledge and training to be able to pass a national test for certification that was developed by IREC, wasn’t it?

Jane Pulaski (IREC): What we do is foundational. It was back in 2002 when IREC was approached by Mark Fitzgerald with this notion of a credential, how to accredit training programs and certify individuals to a standard—an international standard—which is what Michael’s school is, accredited to ISPQ, and he’s also a Master Trainer… The standard establishes the criteria for what a training program should do, so by the time a student goes there, he or she can be guaranteed that it’s training to a certain standard and it meets all these criteria. There are so many training programs that have cropped up, and unless you know what you’re getting, it could be a waste of time and money. Based on a really good international standard–which is what Michael’s school does, and others–people can be assured that you’re getting good training and that the school is doing the right job for you, to prepare you to do a good job, a safe job.

John Hoffner (Host): All of it helps the industry by [giving] people some comfort… If people wanna put solar on their house and have the right to, then the next right is to make sure that they get reliable and good equipment.

Michael Kuhn (ImagineSolar): And you also want to make sure a school is properly licensed. We are licensed by the Texas Workforce Commission, and it’s actually a requirement that you be licensed by the state in order to do seminars, workshops and courses.

 

Tom Kimbis (SEIA): Solar grew by 69% last year as an industry, becoming one of the fastest-growing sectors in the economy. And we currently are a net exporter of solar products by around $2 billion dollars, so the industry is in really good health and growing very fast. It’s a bit of a shame that a lot of the headlines and sensationalism are around the failure of 1 out of around 5,000 U.S. businesses.

Jane Pulaski (IREC): I want to put a plug in for this incredible tool that just came out this past week. It’s part of the Solar Instructor Training Network of which Michael and you all are familiar with. It’s a Solar career mapping tool. It’s interactive, and what it does is it shows the progression of movement within the solar industry for jobs. So if you start at one place and you click on it, it’ll path you on what you have to do to get to another place within the industry: Classes you have to take, degrees you have to achieve, work you have to do–so it’s a progression so you can move within the industry. It’s part of DOE’s Sunshot Initiative. If you go to Department of Energy Sunshot and click on “Solar Career Mapping Tool”–it’s interactive–you can see it.  It’s really cool, especially for people who are interested in getting into the solar world or the solar industry, you can see how you can go once you get in and the progression of work.

 

Michael Kuhn (ImagineSolar): One of the good things we got out of the Texas legislature is they actually defined that projects that were making use of third-party financing or leasing types of models were in fact not really utilities and therefore not subject to utility regulation. So this is really opening up the market.

John Hoffner (Host): Describe what you mean by third-party financing.

Michael Kuhn (ImagineSolar): When you see these companies like Google that are creating funds, $75 million dollar funds–this is where they’re actually gonna work through one of their alliances with Clean Power Finance–this is where a homeowner can put solar on their house at $0 money down. Actually Google’s gonna retain ownership of the system for several decades, and the homeowner only pays for the electricity. It’s comforting to homeowners to know that they don’t need to maintain the system, that it’s gonna be installed properly, because you’ve got these companies who do not want to incur some type of liability because of improper installations and designs. It’s basically like buying cable TV or cell phone service, and it saves you money on your utility bills.

 

Tom Kimbis (SEIA): You put it well, John, that we’ve come a long way over the last decade. We still have a long ways to go, but the goal of [SEIA]… is that we think we can get to about five times the size of the industry that we are today within 4 years—3.5 years. It’s a steep ramp-up. We’re starting from a small base, but I think by 2015 you’ll start to see that we’ll be representing at that point maybe 1 or 2% of the electricity market in this country… We’ve got around 10% total [of our electricity supply] being made up from renewables including hydro, and it would make us by far the largest supplier of new electricity resources on the grid… When it comes to powering our homes and businesses and our economy, we see solar as the fastest-growing source of new electricity for the U.S…. We can be found at SEIA.org. There’s some information both for consumers as well as businesses. There’s a directory of all the companies available in your area if you’re interested in going solar. Of course we have one that’s a sponsor of the show, in the studio right now. IREC also has a great website. You can also go to the Department of Energy’s website for some general info on how to go solar at energy.gov. The last site I’ll have you take a look at is something I think is really fascinating, something we’ve been doing: Compiling stories of people who work in the solar energy industry to give a face to that 100,000 number. There’s an effort going on called “Solar Works for America” at solarworksforamerica.org. There you can see both profiles for individual states and all the companies and number of workers in each state, as well as profiles of individuals who represent the diversity of the solar industry–whether they’re nut and bolt manufacturers or installers or guys with hard hats on roofs or salespeople. It’s a really nice way to get accustomed to the solar industry and find some news and facts about some of their growth numbers.