Solar’s Move Toward an Integrated System Approach

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It’s been a little more than a quarter since Michael Maulick took the lead at SunLink as president and CEO. Recently, LinkUp had a chance to catch up with him and hear more about his vision for SunLink.

“The state of the solar industry today reminds me of the early days of computing. For example, both industries had to wrestle with the expiration of tax credits, and the leaders in solar are now faced with the same challenge that the leaders in tech faced decades ago — evolving to offer a value proposition greater than component manufacturing,” he told LinkUp.

With a background in high tech that traces back more than three decades, Michael sees parallels from which the solar industry can draw, including the value a systems perspective will provide to solar procurement, system owners, operators and maintainers.

“I see solar panels as much like microprocessors in the early days,” he continued. “At first people bought a microprocessor from Fairchild, Motorola, Zilog and many others, and that was the driving perimeter for the system. AMD didn’t even exist then. It wasn’t long before the microprocessor lost its role as the technology driver and became a commodity component in a more complex overall system produced by the likes of Gateway, Dell, IBM, HP and other system developers. End users valued the prepackaged solution. And that’s when the system players took the PC into the dominant position, marking a major industry evolution.”

Michael sees the solar industry heading that same direction. Where the focus has previously been on the technology in the modules, Michael sees a shift away from the module as a technology driver toward a recognition that the success of a project is really based on the engineering of the balance of system and services that support the installation.

“We can learn a great deal from the evolution of the high tech industry – namely that product manufacturers must mature to provide complete, valued solutions or lose relevance.”

Michael attended Greentech Media’s Solar Summit this month, where he spoke on the panel Fast and Furious: Increasing Rooftop Installation Efficiency Through the Balance of Systems. At the event, he expounded on this vision for how both the mounting segment and the solar industry at large are poised to evolve.

“It was a lively discussion, as we all have our opinions on how to increase BOS efficiencies and what the future holds. However, if history is any guide, we can bet that an integrated, products and services approach is going to lead in this next wave of growth. At SunLink, we are driving aggressively toward that new reality.”