The recent boom of solar energy in Europe is a cause for celebration. Having quickly become the cleanest and most cost-effective energy source, solar is now gearing up for massive deployments in 2020. Indeed, after a stellar year for installations in Europe, with a 110% increase and over 20GW of capacity added, the future of solar looks brighter than ever.
Where solar really soars is in its immense employment potential, where it creates more jobs per installed watt than any other power generation source. As a result of new installations, and research and development, solar jobs are expected to double by 2021 compared to 2016. In Europe alone, solar can create up to 500,000 jobs by 2030, and 1.7 million by 2050. These jobs are highly-skilled and local, and can help deliver a European Green Deal for all by targeting former coal regions for solar projects – sites that have untapped solar potential, and are thus attractive business environments for solar deployment and manufacturing. In fact, a recent Joint Research Centre study found solar to be particularly suitable for employing former coal workers and to help drive regional development.
In this series of articles, SolarPower Europe catches up with the people behind the power, putting a spotlight on those who work in the solar sector. Today, we talked with Léopold Coppieters, the co-founder of Skysun, which is a Brussels-based solar investment company that promotes renewables throughout Europe.
Why did you choose to work in the solar sector?
I can be described as a tree hugger with a business mind, and the same can be said of my business partner Arthur Dawans. Therefore, the solar sector was just the right place for us to work, as it offers a huge impact and a fast-growing market. Arthur is a finance specialist and I’m the business development guy – we joined forces and are committed to bringing solar power to businesses and individuals through simple financing and management solutions. Skysun is a mix of passion and energy-saving solutions that help both our client’s wallet and the environment. Our mantra is, Make the best of the sky, smile to the sun!
What is your favourite aspect of working in the solar industry?
Building products, experiences, projects and thinking of new use cases and business opportunities that make sense both environmentally and economically is very rewarding. The industry is always evolving, and to some extent linked to legislation and political agendas. They call it the ‘solar-coaster’ in the USA. It’s a ride I enjoy as it calls for creativity and resilience. My special treat? Having access to rooftops and their amazing views.
Tell us about your day-to-day activities?
Having to deal with multiple actors and sectors is something I greatly enjoy, this links to the versatility of solar. In a single week, I can be working with real estate companies, architects, various manufacturing industries, or contractors. On a day-to-day basis, I spread my time between business development (sales, marketing) and project management (on-site technical stuff). The balance between computer work and outdoors work is an important one to me.
What is something most people do not know about solar?
A market standard for PV modules is a 25-year warranty. This is due to the reliability of the technology – it rarely breaks down thanks to the absence of moving parts. This also means no greasy springs and sprockets.
What do you think the future of the solar sector will look like?
I am convinced solar PV has a huge part to play in a green future because of its beautifully simple technology. I firmly believe in a decentralised energy grid, and no other technology is better suited for deployment and integration across countries and various uses. Its simplicity makes it both very user-friendly and versatile. Can this all make solar the number one energy source by the end of the decade? I am willing to bet on it, and I am putting my money and time where my mouth is!
Has working in the solar sector changed your perspective on anything?
Working in the sector has made me more hopeful in the future. While studying for my Masters in Environmental Science and Management, the hard facts would often be overwhelming and the disasters represented in the figures hard to process. Those were depressing times. Yet starting my business in this industry has allowed me to have a tangible impact. I now understand that I am no scientist, and the best I can do is try to be a part of the solution. Seeing solar PV compete with fossil fuels without any subsidies is a great hint to the bright future ahead. Let’s all get to work with the science in mind while keeping an eye on the bright side of things.
Do you work in the solar sector? We’d love to hear from you and how your work is contributing to the energy transition. Send us your stories at firstname.lastname@example.org.