Despite an unfortunate scheduling issue that prevented Ron Kamen, NYSEIA chair and conversation SPARKer of the evening, from attending the roundtable, The Moderns played host to a wonderful assortment of people, backgrounds, and opinions regarding solar energy last Tuesday. The history of solar energy use, the technologies involved and their different application potentials, and technical and policy hurdles to overcome were all covered. At times, the conversation was sobering, even a touch contentious, but attendees shared a commitment to approach the future of solar energy with open minds.
Janine James, founder of The Moderns – the eco-conscious, holistic branding think-tank hosting the evening – encouraged the audience-participants to share their backgrounds and interests in the solar industry. In attendance were reps from the environmental law, ESCO, branding, and energy finance fields, as well as folks from the worlds of design, policy, green marketing, and academia. The question of solar PV panels as e-waste came up; will investment in solar PV today create a tech junk crisis down the line? Considering utility-scale versus residential installations, the question of equipment ownership, and the ultimate fate of electronic inverter equipment, the answer seems to be ‘it depends.’
Jon Kalfus, of DLB Associates and formerly of Underwriter Laboratories, discussed some of the safety concerns with mounting large solar arrays on existing rooftops. The need for more well-defined standards for solar installations, Mr. Kalfus argued, was quite dire. The true impacts of renewables technologies escalated to something of a heated discussion, with some anecdotal reports of the unacknowledged harm done by electric vehicles on the supply chain from the raw materials to the road. Opinions as to whether PV and solar thermal installations incurred similar invisible damage to the ecosphere spanned the gamut from panic to panacea.
As the conversation drew to a close, it was clear that those in attendance together had a wide band of knowledge and expertise, and the roundtable was a real eye-opener to the complexities of solar and renewable energy growth trends. Despite the rocky start, the evening was a spark of insight that cast a big light.
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Guest Blogger Alex Bronfman is a freelance writer with an interest in energy and environmental issues. Alex recently graduated from Cooper Union with a masters in engineering. Follow him on twitter.