Part II: What’s Next for Solar Energy?

By Courtney White

Editor’s note: This is the second story in a series by TheHub@TTU’s staff examining the state of energy in Texas. 

The solar energy industry is expanding rapidly due to new processes and innovations developing all around the world.

Janie McNutt, President of Solar Chef International and SolarTech Energy, said she has seen the solar industry change for the 18 years she has been involved in it.

“The old wind generators were not cost effective and they needed maintenance all the time,” McNutt said. “So [people] made a huge business out of selling wind power and maintaining it.”

Solar panel in west Texas.

McNutt said that Windy Dankoff, a former colleague of hers, developed a solar pump for use among third world countries.

“Up until then, wind power was the thing and solar power was so expensive, so he developed this solar water pump and took it to many nations,” she said.

These pumps used small solar panels to irrigate crops where people had irrigated by hand previously.

McNutt said when she started her business 17 years ago, it was not cost effective. She said no one knew the future of the business, but she would sit are her desk after a day’s work and think about the impact solar could have on the energy industry.

McNutt’s research in the solar industry started in 1997.

“I went to this place in Colorado called Solar Energy International in 1997,” she said. “This lady was giving out fresh hot chocolate chip cookies and I asked her where she was baking them and she took me to her solar oven,” she said.

McNutt said she then asked to buy 20 of the solar ovens for her company.

“She called me later and asked if I could manufacture the ovens and of course I said yes,” she said.

According to Solar Chef International LLC, the solar ovens offer alternative cooking methods with no environmental pollutants. The ovens hold 10 powerful aluminum segments and the temperature reaches up to 500 degrees.

McNutt said she started manufacturing the solar ovens, but at the time solar was not a big deal.

According to energy.gov, American homeowners and businesses are making the switch to solar power because it is a better economical energy choice.

Solar panels located at Reese Technology Center in Lubbock (Photo by Courtney White)

“Most solar panels are guaranteed for 25 years with some at 80 percent efficiency which is great after 25 years but you can pay for the panels in six to seven years with the cost effectiveness of it,” she said.

McNutt said once this is paid after those six to seven years, you will not have an electric bill.

According to Bloomberg Technology, China has the world’s largest number of solar installations.

“About four or five years ago, China started producing incredibly wonderful solar panels with state of the art solar technology,” McNutt said.

According to Bloomberg, China has installed more gigawatts of solar power in the first nine months of 2017 than in total for 2016.

McNutt said that in America, most of the technologies for advancement in solar are not readily available.

“We just don’t have the technology, and China can do, for a fraction of the cost, what we can do,” she said.

McNutt says the future of the solar industry, as of now, is totally up to President Donald Trump’s administration. She said what needs to be addressed is how the United States of America can help the individual manufacturer.

“It’s completely in the government’s hands whether this industry will go forward and harness this technology that we adapt,” she said.

About Courtney White

Courtney is a senior Electronic Media and Communication major who has a passion for all things journalism. Her interests include entertainment, movies, Hip-Hop and R&B, sports and Beyonce.

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