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Paula Mints

Job title:
Principal Analyst for Navigant Consulting’s PV Service Market Research Program

Areas of expertise:
Photovoltaic (PV) technologies and markets

Biography:
Paula Mints is the principal analyst for Navigant’s PV Service Market Research Program, and executive editor of the Solar Outlook Newsletter, and is widely recognised as an industry expert on photovoltaic (PV) technologies and markets. She has 10 years of experience providing research products and insight about the photovoltaic industry.

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Do you need to Speak Solar to Thrive in the Solar Industry

There is a wave of new business professionals in the solar industry – and not all of them speak solar. Every industry has its own language along with a host of acronyms to go along with it.

The specific language of business can actually obliterate understanding, but, there is no getting around it – you have to speak the language of an industry (to a degree) or end up sidelined or faking it. 

The solar PV industry has a long history of struggle, and has traditionally had very little margin control. The recent boom time, 2004 through 2008, when margins and profits soared is a blip against the overall industry history of mostly negative margins and losses.

Solar PV has its roots in the off grid world and for years was viewed as being peopled by hippies and mad scientists. This is, of course, partly true and mostly false.

Really, the solar PV landscape is populated by true believers of all stripes including those who choose an off grid lifestyle, technologists, installers (construction), government employees, university professors and students – the list goes on.

When the industry was small, it was viewed as little more than a fad – an oddball dream of, again, hippies and mad scientists. Then after over 30 years of struggle, bam, along came sudden success and along with it business types who did not (in many cases) speak solar. In an industry with compound annual growth of over 50% during the last five years, language changes rapidly.

When learning to speak solar (or, PV in this case) it is important for the new guys to understand that despite the Wild-Wild West aspects of the business before the boom, PV has always been a business, and one that expected to succeed.

The almost overnight surge from megawatt levels of demand to multi-gigawatts are the fulfillment of the dreams and deeply held beliefs of an entire industry.

On top of this … the industry would not have survived and thrived without the early pioneers, the Wild Wild West guys and the technologists including large and small system integrators, distributors and technology developers such as those at Kyocera, Uni-Solar, First Solar (including the several company names of First Solar that went before), SunPower, Sharp Solar and many more.

The true believers, who also developed the language of solar, paved the way for the out-of-solar business guys. (By the way, it does not take long for the new guys to become true believers.)

To truly speak solar you need to understand industry history, along with the challenges the industry has faced since its inception. You also have to memorize a host of acronyms such as CdTe, c-Si, a-Si, etc. The language is changing, the industry expanding and everyone must adjust.

Faking it, by the way, is a good way to learn any foreign language – just immerse yourself in the culture, fake understanding and eventually, understanding will come.

Posted 27/07/2010 by Paula Mints

Tagged under: Solar , PV

RE: Do you need to Speak Solar to Thrive in the Solar Industry
Posted 04/08/2010 by
This is a very interesting article but in my segment, speaking solar isn't as important. At www.e-solarproducts.com, we sell solar consumer products that are made to be practical, useful and inexpensive. They are all powered by small, portable solar panels that provide just enough energy to get the job done. As costs continue to be driven downward, I think we will see more people interested in solar systems for their homes but in years to come small, solar-powered consumer products provide great potential.

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