Remember January 2008?
The U.S. presidential primaries were just getting under way. “Breaking Bad” premiered on AMC. Most importantly, a brand-new B2B magazine all about solar – a sector poised for extraordinary growth and momentous changes – launched. Although I took Solar Industry’s official editorial reins in January 2010, I was deeply involved with the magazine from its earliest days as a Web editor, writer and occasional representative globe-trotter (Valencia, Spain – home of EU PVSEC 2008 – remains an all-time highlight).
Nearly a decade later, it’s clear a lot has changed since 2008:
1. Solyndra. Let’s get that one out of the way. From industry darling to synecdochal punching bag throughout incessant congressional hearings, this is one solar company that I hope has finally receded from public awareness. But here’s an interesting flashback: I recently unearthed notes from a 2008 solar conference, where several respected keynote speakers spoke effusively about this remarkable cylindrical technology. Their comments might seem laughable in retrospect, but the whole tale – minus the disproportionate political baggage – is really just part of any maturing industry.
2. San Francisco. Mid-July means two things: the Major League Baseball All-Star Break and Intersolar North America. Even now, mid-summer feels incomplete without a week in wind-whipped San Francisco, watching the Home Run Derby together in a hotel bar and celebrating Bastille Day at a French restaurant. In 2008, change was already well under way in San Francisco’s neighborhoods, especially in the streets surrounding the Moscone Center. Each year upon our return, we’d note a new hip restaurant, a freshly remodeled hotel, or a different mood in the streets. SoMa felt like an apt location to reflect on the solar sector’s growth and evolution each year.
3. Cost per watt. When the first issue of Solar Industry rolled off the printer, the SunShot Initiative was still years away. A buyer perception of “still too expensive” pervaded. Everyone from slurry and wafer manufacturers to installation companies’ marketing departments to town permit boards had a role to play in cost reduction. Now, SunShot has met its 2020 utility-scale solar goal, installed costs have come way down, and residents of towns and cities across the U.S. notice a whole lot more solar on their neighbors’ rooftops. While this is no time for complacency, it’s worth comparing the numbers and toasting to the immense collective progress.
4. Twitter. In early 2009, I noticed that solar professionals – ever on the cutting edge – were increasingly sharing their thoughts on a little three-year-old social media platform called Twitter. I snagged the coveted username @SolarIndustry, jumped into weekly solar chats, procured interview sources, made new friends at Tweetups, and steadily grew our following in a community that still felt like a new frontier. Just last month, Twitter doubled the tweet character limit to 280 – the latest of many changes we’ve seen at the now not-so-small publicly traded company over the years.
Through the years, some things stay the same – namely, the importance of smart, timely news coverage. As Solar Industry transitions to the digital-exclusive life, it will surely continue to serve as the best source of daily news and analysis for B2B solar professionals.
We could publish 10,000 words on the transformation of media consumption preferences since 2008, but fortunately, quality journalism never goes out of style, especially in an industry as complex and vibrant as solar.
Jessica F. Lillian is a writer and editor who served as editor of Solar Industry from January 2010 to April 2013. Follow her on Twitter @jessica_lillian.