Out in space, 93 million miles away from the earth, is a nuclear fusion reactor we call the sun. It creates a huge amount of energy and will continue to do so long after the human race has disappeared. Oil, coal and natural gas all took hundreds of millions of years to produce but, unlike our celestial fusion reactor, they are finite.
Wind and nuclear power also have grave limitations:
Large retailers like Macy's and Walmart are also adopting solar as the public relations and marketing potential of "going green" multiplies, and as the consensus around climate change grows. Consumers are increasingly aware of what goes into the products and services they buy, from outrage over child labor abuses in the developing world to environmental issues around manufacturing in China. "Green" is no longer a box to check off, far down the list of priorities. It is an emerging driver of consumer preference.
The political will of the country and the globe will eventually turn toward sustainable, clean energy. Mandates will come down and companies will have to make a change. Large companies that begin to move toward solar have the chance to stay ahead of that curve and plan these investments to their best advantage.
The key driver remains price. Solar is still a more expensive option in many energy markets where prices vary greatly. The same electron costs far more in San Francisco than it does in West Virginia. In some markets, solar may represent a price break, but in the least expensive markets the economics do not yet add up. However, as the technology matures, solar panels promise to become much more efficient and take greater advantage of the radiation that reaches our planet from the sun.
Best practices for sustainability officers and other change agents who wish to take advantage of the emerging opportunities in solar include: