By Nardos Girma
On Wednesday and Thursday, Stanford played host to the 2010 Greenbeat Conference, which brought entrepreneurs and executives together to discuss green advancements in energy technology. Panel topics included distributive solar energy, consumer efficiency and an entrepreneurship roundtable specifically directed toward Stanford students.
One presentation, “The Rise of Distributed Solar,” discussed methods to improve the quality and appeal of solar systems via technical enhancements and the integration of solar energy into economics in order to convince more people to use solar energy.
Danny Kennedy, founder of Sungevity, an Oakland company specializing in solar homes, said the expansion of solar energy is dependent upon improving the services that come with it and making people intrigued in the experience of having a solar system.
“[We need to] make it sexy, make it simple, make it fun,” said Kennedy, citing Apple as an example of a company that has accomplished this goal. “Give people joy in being owners of a solar system. Learn from Apple. All of you feel cool sitting there with your Apple computers,”
But increasing the solar energy fan-base requires work on more than just the economic aspect. In fact, Ron Van Dell, chief executive of SolarBridge in Austin, Texas, believed solar systems could be made more appealing simply through technical improvements. He described the expensive installation and repair processes that often discourage consumers from investing in solar energy and said this could be avoided by making electronics last longer.
Another technical solution calls for generating solar energy locally, from rooftops rather than in large-scale utilities. Typically the bigger utilities are constructed on farmlands or in deserts, efforts that not only cost more money but are more labor-intensive. This approach of distributed solar energy brings the users as close as possible to the technology, which is more economic compared to large utilities.
Sponsored by SSE Labs, a project of Stanford Student Enterprises, and innovation news site VentureBeat, the conference brought together participants from around the world and featured the “Innovation Competition” for attending companies. Winners were awarded the opportunity to present their ideas to potential investors at the DEMO conference next spring, valued at $18,500.