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Over the Next Hill

April 1, 2008
Renewable power sources like the sun and wind are revolutionizing the global utility industry. They may change your company forever, too.

While writing this month's cover story, “Green Power” (page 26), I found myself thinking about the many hiking trips I have enjoyed over the years in New England. While scrambling up a granite ridge above treeline, I sometimes thought the peak was in view, only to get there and realize the real mountaintop was over the next ridge and farther up the trail.

I think this is a pretty good analogy for sales opportunities the green market now offers distributors, reps, manufacturers, electrical contractors, facility maintenance personnel and other end users. They probably think they have a pretty good handle on what sales might be available as far as energy-efficient lighting equipment, motors, drives and other green products. But as soon as they conquer this mountain of opportunity, they may see off in the distance a whole new world of green sales opportunities in the electrical products needed for the installation of photovoltaic panels, wind turbines, solar hot-water systems and other renewable power sources. They may even tap into these technologies to help power their own businesses.

They may not even see what opportunities exist over the next hill until they start the journey there and begin to get their bearings in the green market. Like any new market, that's going to take a commitment in personnel, training and inventory.

In the big picture, renewable power sources will provide an increasing share of the power pie in the years to come, and in fact should grow faster than traditional power sources such as coal-fired power plants, nuclear energy and hydroelectric power. Yes, the total amount of power these renewable energy sources provide is still a tiny fraction of what's provided by traditional power sources. But they are already starting to provide real-world sales opportunities. Just ask distributors and reps in Iowa, the eastern Dakotas and southwestern Minnesota about the new wind farms being built there.

It truly is the dawn of a new era of power supply. While few electrical distributors may ever sell a solar panel, wind turbine or fuel cell, all of these products require electrical equipment to be connected to the power grid. Now is the time to figure out exactly what role your company may have in these installations. Market skeptics may look at today's power generation data and say that renewables will never provide a sizable amount of power for the world. They will say it's a market best left for the wild-eyed greenies who want to live off the grid and drop out of society.

Tell that to the folks in the executive suites of GE, FPL Group (corporate power of Florida Power & Light), Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric. They have already invested millions of dollars in the renewables market. For instance, FPL Energy, a subsidiary of FPL Group and Southern California Edison recently announced their plans to begin construction of photovoltaic power plants in California that will provide enough power for 300,000 homes. That's real power.

It's your call. You can either pass on the opportunity and watch others play in these new markets, or treat renewable power as a new market niche worthy of your interest.

Electrical Wholesaling's editors hope this cover story and the feature articles on the topic in the months to come will help you get started on this journey over the next hill in the green market. You never know what you might learn on the way.


If you want to learn more about the green market, visit and type “green” into the search engine. This will pull up the articles the magazine's editors have written on the green market in recent years. You may also want to subscribe to GreenBiz, the free twice-monthly e-mail newsletter published by EW and Electrical Construction & Maintenance magazines. Just go to the right-hand column under the “Related Sites” heading and double-click on the link for GreenBiz.