This post was updated on April 3rd to reflect the latest satellite images. Thanks to Brent Logan for bringing the update to my attention on Twitter.
As part of my new personal site at www.jeffreymartens.com, I've been re-publishing some of my favorite blog posts from more than 10 years of writing on Blogger's platform. Instead of re-publishing I've decided to revisit the topic from one of my favorite posts, originally written in June of 2013.
From 2005 to 2014 I lived in in Hillsboro, Oregon. My regular commute took me past North American's largest solar manufacturing facility (at least was the largest when it opened in 2008), owned by SolarWorld. Their two massive buildings are located at the norther perimeter of the Hillsboro Airpot, along NW Evergreen Parkway.
One day while browsing the Hillsboro Airport on Google Maps in "Earth" mode (I love airplanes and airports), I noticed something odd. One of the world's largest and most well known solar energy companies didn't have any solar panels on their roof! See for yourself:
The above image was capture from Google Maps on April 2nd, 2016 and still no solar on their roofs. I find this odd for a few reasons. First, I was under the impression that solar was an economical choice. If so, why not put solar on their roofs, especially with their expertise and access to materials? Second, and directly related to the first, SolarWorld could install panels at a much lower cost than their customers, essentially getting the materials at cost. Meaning that even if the economics didn't work out for consumers, they'd likely work out for SolarWorld themselves.
I'm not a distractor or trying to make an argument against solar. I think its a great technology and something we should be moving society towards. That said, why wouldn't SolarWorld themselves use solar heavily at their own facilities? Especially the ones that suck down electricity like I assume a solar manufacturing facility does?
SolarWorld isn't without solar panels at their facility. I knew of two very small installations when I wrote my post in 2013 and again when I wrote this one in April (In the 2 red boxes on the left of this image). Then after originally publishing, one of my Twitter followers that lives in the area got curious and did some research. Brent Logan was able to find a more recent satellite image that appears to show a 3rd, larger solar panel installation (inside the red box on the right). Its nice to see that after 8 years they've decided to start putting *some* of their own product in place, but the location and size lead me to believe that these are more vanity installations than anything. Near the road and flanking each side of the entrance, for everyone to see. If solar is so great, why not put panels all over their vast, mostly empty roofs that appear to have no obstruction from the sun?