Opinion

A solar booking on Double Standard Airlines


24 June 2015 by William P. Hirshman

PV and ME question #8: Do we really need so many trade fairs for solar?


Imagine you are flying, comfy in a windowseat, looking down on the Earth. Magical. Dreamlike. Mind-blowing. Poetic.

And so environmentally unfriendly.

To watch jet trails from the ground painting crisscrossed geometric patterns in the sky is to watch an art form that is heaven-sent. But to stand behind a roaring jet engine on a runway is to risk being heaven-sent due to respiratory failure. The flying you may find breathtaking is also taking away the breaths you breathe.

For the solar industry, devoted to a technology aimed at no less than saving an atmospherically-challenged planet, its business people sometimes seem more like people pushing “business as usual” rather than unusual people pushing ethical business. Instead of living a lifestyle reserved for the survival of the living Earth, they live with a constant reservation on Double Standard Airlines.

An inconvenient truth – the count

According to the business directory website of China-based EFN Solar, there are more than 130 exhibitions and conferences worldwide from June 23, 2015 to June 28, 2016, many directly solar-related, others dealing with the technology as part of renewables. In addition there areuntold hundreds, perhaps thousands, of solar-related meetings, symposia, forums, congresses and panel discussions scheduled annually, requiring transport to and from the venues. Obviously, many of these events are smaller affairs. But judging by the numbers, if event-bound solarites were so inclined, they could spend a large chunk of the year in the air jetting to these venues, earning bonus air miles galore – and being a part of the problem they vociferously want to solve.

The big solar trade fairs – the five annual Intersolar events, POWER GEN, EU PVSEC, PV Expo, etc. – all also require the transport of tons of huge exhibition booth displays, either by air or ground or both, meaning even more pollutants and CO2 released into the air.

From B2B to T2T – the solar age to the cyber age

Is there a way to clean up the dirty trail the solar industry leaves in the sky and footprint on the ground by slashing the number of events each year that unwittingly condone the crime of contaminating commerce for the sake of solar promotion?

Reduce, maybe. End, no. Sometimes B2B means meeting F2F – face to face – shaking hands, exchanging business cards, seeing products in action, sharing a joke and a drink and dining out for the deals to be done.

Still, a credible option could be F2F for B2B via T2T – (solar) technology to (information) technology. Consider a trade fair via Skype or the like. Certainly the software and hardware is there, at least for conferencing, holding panel discussions and other small affairs. And with some ingenuity, cyber exhibiting booths could be created. Too impractical? Consider the current immense cost in transportation, hotel accommodations, expense accounts for an industry in survival mode. A fantasy? Even now, 3D printing is making inroads into production. Could 3D meetings, even perhaps holograms, be far behind?

A loss for the trade fair industry itself? Maybe not. With the right kinds of algorithms, software programs and apps, it is not hard to imagine the creation of a new online design and lucrative business plan for charging exhibitors to rent cyber “space” for booths, while profiting from pay-for-view “attendance” by visitors.

Sex and solar

Pie in sky? Maybe. But is a greenhouse gas-threatened sky with so many airplane-bound solar people winging above the clouds justifiable when promoting a green technology?

Of course, a certain amount of F2F would still be necessary. The slashing of solar-based events is not a Luddite suggestion eschewing all forms of technology – it is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Think about online dating. Even using a CPU for processing D2D (date to dinner) requires F2F for B2B (boy to babe or babe to boy) to be “physically” close. Sometimes it’s the same with solar business – doing the deed needs B2B to be F2F.

But in a home-office age where we are so well connected with cell phones and WiFi, it is less important for the solar connection to get so physical. Perhaps it is time to deplane Double Standard Airlines. Rather than scraping the sky, sacred solar needs to find peace on earth. Following its own preachings by embracing T2T could give a whole new meaning to B2B – back to the basics of saving the planet.

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