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  • MALE SPEAKER: I'd like to welcome Phil Warburg back

  • to Google to talk about his book called "Harness the Sun".

  • He was here earlier to talk about "Harvest the Wind"

  • and now we're on to "Harness the Sun".

  • As you see he's very interested in alternative energy

  • and how it can help save the climate

  • and why it's the future of energy in the United States.

  • Without further introduction, I'd

  • like the invited Phil up to talk to us about his new book.

  • PHILIP WARBURG: It's great to be back at Google

  • talking about my favorite subject.

  • I can't think of a better place to talk

  • about technological transformation than Google.

  • I want to start by asking how many of you

  • have solar on your homes today?

  • And how many of you have neighbors

  • with solar on their homes?

  • OK, and I want to see those hands together.

  • So that really says something to me about solar power today.

  • And that is that it's really become part of our lives

  • whether we've invested in it individually

  • or whether we're part of a broader community that

  • has decided that solar is a worthwhile investment.

  • And by worthwhile I mean a number of things.

  • For some people, that is simply lowering their electric bills

  • now and thinking about future fuel prices and stability

  • going forward in terms of their electric bills.

  • For some, there's satisfaction in trimming

  • at least a bit of their carbon footprint

  • by generating at least part, or a substantial part of,

  • their power from renewable sources.

  • And for others there's a satisfaction

  • in taking charge of at least some of the power

  • that we consume in our daily lives.

  • And that latter concept of taking charge

  • is one that I found particularly intriguing

  • as I traveled the country talking

  • to different people about their own commitment

  • to moving solar power forward.

  • One would expect progressive politicians

  • like former congressman Henry Waxman

  • to be avid solar proponents-- he wrote a wonderful blurb

  • on the back of my book-- former Head of the Energy and Commerce

  • Committee in the House, dedicated

  • to environmental issues.

  • Sea solar as part of broader panoply of necessary

  • measures we have to take to address

  • the overwhelming challenge of climate change.

  • But what was more surprising to me

  • was finding that there is strong support

  • for solar power among at least a contingent of very

  • right-wing libertarians.

  • People like former congressman Barry Goldwater Jr.,

  • he was Congressman from California

  • for a number of years, he now is the chair

  • of something called TUSK-- Tell Utilities

  • Solar Won't Be Killed.

  • And what that group does is it's a representation of homeowners

  • and business owners who want to generate solar

  • on their properties and who want fair compensation

  • for the surplus power that they generate and they are fighting

  • major utilities, such as Arizona Public Service, which

  • wants to cut back on the net metering benefits that

  • are provided to solar homeowners and solar business owners.

  • I don't know if this is enough to bridge

  • the gaping political chasm that exists in America today,

  • but at least it's a sign that there is a common language

  • that we can talk across the political spectrum

  • in looking at some of our renewable energy opportunities.

  • Back in 2012 when I was just wrapping up my book on wind

  • power, people often asked me, so will

  • your next book the about solar?

  • And my kind of flip and dismissive comment at the time

  • was that if I ever wrote a book about solar,

  • I have to call it "Dim Sun".

  • And the reason I said that was because at the time,

  • it just struck me that solar was pricing itself out

  • of the market and was not on the verge of becoming a mainstream

  • power producer.

  • Thankfully, and fairly quickly, I was proven wrong.

  • Between the first quarter of 2012

  • and the first quarter of 2015 the price

  • of residential and utility-scale solar came down about 46%.

  • And the price of non-residential,

  • as in commercial and public building related solar,

  • came down about 52%.

  • So a very dramatic drop in a very short period of time.

  • And another powerful indicator of just where solar is today

  • can be found in the first half of this year's new generation

  • capacity installations.

  • Solar, during the first half of this year,

  • accounted for 39% of all new power generation capacity

  • nationwide.

  • Wind accounted for about 36%.

  • So if you add the two of those, you're

  • looking at 75% of our new electric generating capacity

  • in the first half of this year coming from renewable sources.

  • You know we all hear about natural gas

  • as the cheaper, more convenient, accessible options--

  • and with fracking ever more accessible.

  • Gas accounted for about 21.4% percent

  • of new generated capacity during that same period.

  • So those are all pretty powerful signs to me

  • that solar's time really has arrived.

  • My own solar journey began in March of 2013

  • when my wife and I decided to put

  • solar on our own home's roof.

  • And we actually found ourselves just a few days after one

  • of Massachusetts' many heavy snow storms,

  • not the likes of which we saw last year, but 2013

  • had it's share as well-- and we weren't at all sure

  • that the installers from Sunlight Solar Energy

  • were going to show up at all, but they did.

  • And one member of their crew was a guy named Liam [? Madden. ?]

  • He was a former Marine Expeditionary Unit

  • member in Iraq-- tough guy-- but when

  • he got out of the gleaming white Sunlight Solar Energy van

  • and looked up at our roof, he kind of blanched.

  • And I said, what's-- is something the matter?

  • Have you not installed solar on a roof this steep before?

  • And he said well, actually not.

  • Our room has a 55 degree slope.

  • And he and his teammates climbed the roof

  • and in utter silence roped to the peak of the roof,

  • they installed our solar array.

  • Thankfully, no one was hurt and thereafter we've

  • gotten about 75% of our total electricity needs from the sun

  • and that includes the nightly charging

  • of a plug-in electric hybrid vehicle.

  • So we feel good about what we're doing and we're by no means

  • alone in doing this.

  • There are about 750,000 homeowners and businesses

  • in America today who have installed

  • solar on their rooftops.

  • During 2014, that amounted to about one

  • new solar installation every 2.4 or 2.5 minutes.

  • So we're really again, seeing solar

  • penetrate the marketplace.

  • And one thing I should just mention, which many of you,

  • given your work in this particular industry I'm sure

  • know from electronic appliances, solar photovoltaics actually

  • work better in colder weather.

  • So some people say well gee, solar

  • isn't a great match for Massachusetts,

  • it's a cold climate, snowy climate, et cetera.

  • As long as our solar panels are clear,

  • we actually get better productivity

  • from the sun during the winter months

  • than during the summer months.

  • Not overall, but at any given moment, because of the factor

  • of colder operating conditions.

  • But we're not just seeing solar on our homes this I'm sure

  • is a familiar sight to you, the Mountain View

  • headquarters of Google, where you

  • have 30% of your peak electric demand coming

  • from solar energy, which is pretty impressive given what

  • must go on at that complex.

  • And that might be expectable because again, you're

  • a high tech company, cutting edge, et cetera.

  • But what's interesting to me is seeing

  • how companies like Kohl's, like Ikea, like Walmart,

  • are going solar.

  • Walmart now has solar on 250 of its buildings

  • and its goal is to have solar on 1,000 of its buildings

  • in the coming years.

  • They want to be 100% reliant upon renewable energy

  • at some point in the near future.

  • Walmart isn't exactly on the cutting edge

  • of environmentalism or energy enlightenment,

  • but in fact, it is working toward the right ends

  • in this particular respect.

  • We're also seeing solar in some perhaps somewhat unpredictable

  • places the NFL has made a commitment to solar there

  • six NFL stadiums that either have solar today

  • or are having it installed on their facilities.