I have a business hypothetical for you. Let’s say your favorite color is green and that you are in the market for a new raincoat. You’ve found a perfect-fitting, deep forest green coat for $90, and you are ready to take it to the register when I stop you with a proposition.
“Nice raincoat,” I begin. “The color really brings out your eyes.”
“Thanks,” you awkwardly reply, wondering why this stranger in the store is talking about your eyes.
I continue on, oblivious to your uncomfortable and defensive stance: “So I can see why you might want to buy that beautiful coat, but before you do, perhaps you would be interested in what I have to sell. You see, I have this lightweight windbreaker in the exact same shade of green, and it only costs $50.”
As your eyes scan the store for the friends who have somehow abandoned you to this bizarre person trying to sell you his own coat inside a coat store, you politely respond: “I’m not looking for a windbreaker. I need a new raincoat, and that would soak through in a storm.”
“Aha!” I say in triumph. “That’s why I have this clear, colorless rain coat to put over your green windbreaker, and it also only costs $50. That way, you can stay stylish and dry with two garments instead of one! So, do we have a deal?”
Convinced that I’m a loon, you hurry past me without answering. Wise choice. I mean, why pay more money for more stuff when all you need is one green raincoat?
There’s a chance that this silly hypothetical will be the equivalent of what future generations will say about solar panels on roofs.
Now let me be clear – I am very much in favor of people deciding to add solar panels on top of their currently existing roofs. Such systems play an important part in transitioning our society to a renewable and distributed energy model. And as costs continue to fall in the solar market, I expect more people will be adding them to their homes.
That said, this isn’t an ideal situation. After all, what we care about with our roofs is that they seal the building and move water off the house without looking ugly. If we also want solar power generation, wouldn’t we prefer roof shingles that also generate power themselves? If we have the technology and it is cost-effective, wouldn’t that be better than putting a solar system on top of an ordinary roof?
Well, in case you haven’t heard, it seems that the technology is coming fairly soon. And by the way, tip of the cap to Lori Blank, our Operations Coordinator, for clueing me in on this announcement.
I think it’s brilliant, and it has a dang good chance of becoming the future. From a sustainability standpoint, it makes a ton of sense – renewable energy, dematerialization, lightweight with systems integration. And if the economics work too, it could make a ton of cents as well. After all, why pay for two things when one will do?