Each day, our industry sits down and whittles the unsightly knots off the tree we call solar energy.
We, as a group, spend more time than we should pointing to one of a growing number of reasons why solar energy isn't taking hold in America: that perhaps our government incentives were cut too quickly; that our state's solar renewable energy certificate program is broken; that the net metering requirements aren't strong enough.
Not that those things wouldn't further bolster our industry, but go out and ask your friends and family about solar energy.
The problem with solar energy in America isn't a result of the deficiencies of the incentives (although improved incentives would set this industry on fire), it's with the astounding lack of knowledge about a technology that can transform lives.
Do you know how much of a return on your investment you would receive if you installed solar on your home or business right now? Do you know enough to even estimate the amount of money you'd save over decades?
Would you guess that solar energy is actually a financial investment with recent returns more solid than stocks and bonds? Do you know that solar energy works in colder climates and on cloudy days? Did you know that nearly any solar installation company will gladly provide you these numbers for free?
Probably not. Not many Americans can begin to answer these questions. And who can blame them?
You can't explain the entirety of the benefits of solar energy in 140 characters. It's both a great and terrible feeling to know what you can give people, if only they knew what you could give. It's unrequited love in the form of a solar panel, and we have thousands upon thousands of them waiting to find a good home.
We're not at war with the other energy companies, utility companies, banks or the real estate market.
What we do face is a nation that just doesn't understand us. There's not been a better time to go solar. The panels pay for themselves typically about halfway through their life cycle.
There is a 30 percent federal tax credit for anyone who installs solar on a home or business. Many states have similar tax incentives to add to that. You can get paid to send your excess energy back to the grid. You can also sell solar credits to utility companies. And if you own a business, there's a good chance you can depreciate the entire installation in one year.
Did you know you'll see, on average, a more steady return from "going solar" than you would on stocks and bonds (at least historically speaking)? It's OK; most people don't know that.
So here we sit as an industry with such a powerful solution for our country. We are, as a nation, being quickly passed up by other countries. Research countries such as Germany and what they are doing with solar energy -- it's amazing.
We, as an industry, can see what is ahead. We'll be here waiting.
And when you say, "Oh man, I wish I knew about this sooner," we won't judge. We'll love and support you just the same. It was Marty McFly in "Back to the Future" who said: "I guess you guys aren't ready for that yet. But your kids are gonna love it."
See you soon, America.
Terrill Dines is the CEO of Honeycomb Solar, a renewable energy company based in Ross.