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Q&A: The Solar Energy Industries Association Expert Shares Retail Insights

Utilizing solar energy is growing in popularity for many companies in their operations and consumers in their homes. As a retailer, whether you decide to incorporate solar technology into your operations or as a project to sell in the future, it’s important to take a closer look at the industry and where it stands today.

In the April issue of the magazine, Hardware Retailing took a closer look at TreeHouse, the Austin, Texas, based home improvement business with a focus on renewable and sustainable home improvement. For more insights into the solar energy industry and how it may affect retail in the future, Hardware Retailing interviewed Alexandra Hobson, senior communications manager with the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

Hardware Retailing (HR): Can you provide some background information on the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA)? When was the association founded and what does the association do? 

Alexandra Hobson (AH): Established in 1974, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is the national trade association of the U.S. solar energy industry, which now employs more than 260,000 Americans. Through advocacy and education, SEIA is building a strong solar industry to power America. SEIA works with its 1,000 member companies to build jobs and diversity, champion the use of cost-competitive solar in America, remove market barriers and educate the public on the benefits of solar energy.

HR: How has solar technology improved in the past 10 years? 

AH: Solar technology has greatly improved in the last decade, allowing for greater efficiency with dramatically lower prices. For example, solar photovoltaic (PV) prices have fallen by 17 percent in the last year and by 53 percent over the last five years.

HR: What do you think the future of the industry looks like? Will we see more growth in the next 10 to 15 years?

AH: Excuse the pun, but the future of the industry is bright! On March 9, we updated the forecast of the industry through the U.S. Solar Market Insight report – and with more than 1 million residential solar installations taking place nation wide, the market had its biggest year ever in 2016. Solar now enjoys an economically winning hand that makes it the obvious choice in many markets.

HR: SEIA reported that the U.S. Solar Market grew 95 percent in 2016. Could you touch on this and why you think it grew so much? 

AH: That’s right. The solar industry has become a force to be reckoned with. For the first time ever, U.S. solar ranked as the number-one source of new electric generating capacity additions on an annual basis. This growth is due to a number of factors, including (as noted above) solar’s cost-competitiveness. However, it’s also worth pointing out that 2016 was bolstered by a pipeline of utility-scale projects hurrying to get online in advance of the expiration of the federal investment tax credit, which has since been extended, providing companies the longer-term market certainty they need.

HR: How do you think more consumers and businesses could utilize solar energy? 

AH: Each person’s situation is unique and each option has their own advantages. At SEIA, we advise consumers to always do their homework so that they find a system that is the best fit for them and we offer extensive consumer resources. For example, the SEIA Residential Consumer Guide to Solar Power arms consumers with tips and the key questions they should ask before entering into a solar agreement and also outlines the various financing options that exist.

HR: What will it take to see a wider adoption of solar energy? 

AH: Smart policies in place that continue to open access to the clean energy that taxpayers deserve.

HR: Could solar energy products sold and installed by independent hardware and home improvement retail businesses?  

AH: As your readers are probably aware, some partnerships between solar companies and hardware and home improvement stores already exist.  I see no reason why this model couldn’t be expanded.

HR: How can one become a member of your association? 

AH: Our website is a great place to start if you’re interested in becoming a member. You can also reach out to our membership team directly via email at membership@seia.org

About Renee Changnon

Renee Changnon
Renee Changnon is the retail outreach coordinator for NRHA. She meets with retailers in their stores and at industry events and introduces them to the services NRHA provides. Renee previously worked as a member of the NRHA communications team. She earned a degree in visual journalism from Illinois State University, where she served as the features editor for the school newspaper. After college, she implemented marketing and promotions initiatives at Jimmy John’s franchise locations across the country. She enjoys exploring books with her book club, Netflix marathons and hosting goat yoga at her apartment complex. Renee Changnon 317-275-9442 rchangnon@nrha.org

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