Experts discuss solar energy at second annual Solar Institute

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The second annual GW Solar Institute Symposium took place Monday in the Jack Morton Auditorium as part of a series of environmental awareness events celebrating Earth Month throughout April.

Hosted by the GW Solar Institute, panelists discussed ways environmentally conscious consumers can benefit from the major advances taking place in solar technology.

Scott Frier, the chief operating officer for Abengoa Solar, acknowledged that companies will incur high costs when investing in solar technology, but maintained that doing so benefits both consumers and the environment.

“There is a solar capacity 16 times greater than peak demand for energy in the state of California alone,” he said.

Frier said the solar industry is already highly developed, but in order for it to succeed it will require a substantial financial investment.

“Solar investment is investing in infrastructure for the future, not volatility of stocks,” he said.

Chris Meyers, vice president of energy programs at Lockheed Martin, said entering the solar technology market would also diminish dependence on foreign oil.

Careless energy consumption from non-renewable resources from abroad “is a national security imperative as well as a global security issue,” Meyers said.

Chief Technology Officer for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy Sam Baldwin said he believes the economic, national security and environmental challenges can all be simultaneously surpassed through further trust in the industry.

Given that “57 percent of the $677 billion trade deficit in the U.S. for 2008 was due to importing oil,” Baldwin said it is imperative to find an alternative energy resource for the sake of the country’s economy and ecological prospects.

Andrew Chabot of the Global Solar Center said he was fully aware of the challenges and benefits that come with solar technology.

“The U.S. is far behind from the rest of the world regarding energy efficiency standards, so the upfront costs of developing solar technology are necessary and will yield positive results in the long run,” Chabot, a GW alumnus, said.

Chabot encouraged recent graduates to look into the solar industry, adding that its development is necessary for the nation’s well being.

“Solar energy is truly an investment in yourself,” he said.

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