Jigar Shah: Solar Titan

Don't disrespect, Jigar told SA audiences yesterday. Solar is ready.

Greg Harman

[email protected]

What do we eat, if not the Sun? We've long gobbled up its energy converted by plants, converted by cows, converted with extra bacon grease.

More recently, we have learned to consume the sun's energy more directly, converted by photovoltaic arrays on our roofs, pipelined from fields of concentrated solar panels.

On Helios itself, the Sun Gods are said to wheel their reinforced canoes about the plasma sea, sucking down extreme-heat-tolerant grapes, fretting over the offenses of the growing Earth-bound solar industry.

At 29, Jigar Shah* stole fire from the gods when he founded SunEdison, now the largest solar energy provider in North America. But, thankfully, he has yet to be strapped to a rock having his liver consumed by a great bird for the offense.

Likewise, San Antonio's Bill Sinkin has brought this increasingly less arcane knowledge of virtually pollution-free energy to Alamo City.

While his revolution has swept over the old Pearl Brewing Plant â?? which now boasts the largest solar installation in Texas â?? it has yet to completely overtake 100 Military Plaza or 401 Villita Street.

Still, his birthday has become an annual event in the city. This year, monied donors gathered to cheer him into orbit number 96 even as the organization he founded, Solar San Antonio, rocked it tenth anniversary.

Jigar Shah's speech is here:

While the senior Sinkin was unable to attend the gathering, due to complications from dental surgery, his son Lanny (left) welcomed the group's gesture of respect.

Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson introduced Shah, saying, "San Antonio can be the renewable energy Spindletop of Texas.”

Shah, for his part, proceeded to dismiss the most popular objections to solar. A silicon* shortage? No longer. Two expensive? Prices have dropped 40 percent in seven months. He added that San Antonio could have 500 megawatts of the stuff by 2020 for an investment of only $200 million.

By way of comparison, the twin nuclear plants CPS Energy is pursuing would provide around 2,700 megawatts at a cost of between $17 and $22 billion, by most estimates.

The party wrapped with a sentimental video birthday card for Bill Sinkin and a pledge from incoming San Antonio mayor Julian Castro.

The day is coming, said Castro, when we stop reading about the great things other cities are doing with solar because “we will be leaders in the industry.”

(He didn't give an anticipated date for the shift in conversation.)

* So busted! I had an erroneous "w" on this spelling of Shah's name (though "h" elsewhere) and silicon did have an embarrassing "e" on it. Thanks to our alert reader.

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