The solar ninja uprising
Photo: Osha Gray DavidsonAt precisely 5:30 Wednesday night, a dozen or so black-clad solar ninjas converged on booth 1239 toward the back of the cavernous exhibit hall in the Los Angeles Convention Center.
Handing out small black flags and rolls of stickers reading “No on Prop 23!” Lynn Jurich, the mastermind behind what was about to go down, confessed her ambitious plan: “We want this to go viral,” she said. “This guerrilla action is going to be just the first of many. The oil and gas industries are united. We need to be, too.”
“Right on!” cried one of Jurich’s comrades, fist in the air, half in self-parody, but also with a real sense of purpose. With that, Jurich’s band of guerrillas fanned out, distributing flags, stickers, and fliers condemning California Proposition 23 as a “deceptive ballot proposition that would kill clean air standards and kill clean energy jobs.”
Jurich is a co-founder of SunRun, a pioneer in solar financing, and one of 50 executives named to a 2009 Fortune magazine list of “Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs.” She sees the oil industry-funded Prop 23 as a direct assault on renewable energy. If approved by voters in November, the proposition would roll back a 2006 California law designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
As much as Jurich loathes Prop 23, she sees the fight as a potential rallying point for the solar industry as a whole. Hence, her choice of venues: the Solar Power International conference, the largest solar industry gathering in North America, with an estimated 27,000 attendees from around the globe.
In his Tuesday morning opening speech, Rhone Resch, head of the Solar Energy Industries Association, stressed the need for the disparate players in the field to join together with a common vision, to become, in his words, “Team Solar.”
Which is exactly what Jurich is attempting to do down on the floor of the exhibition hall.
Within a half hour several booths are draped in the funeral black fabric provided by Jurich and her partner in the effort, the Sierra Club.
I approached one such booth and asked about the fabric. As it turned out, the owner, Melissa, who didn’t want her last name used, isn’t convinced that Prop 23 is much of a threat.
“For most people, solar is all about being free from their utility company,” she said. “The climate angle really isn’t that important to our clients.”
So why did she put up the black protest cloth?
“Well, someone from another solar company asked us to,” she said, shrugging. “I think sticking together is a good thing.”
It may not to be the exact the message Jurich wants to hear, but it’s probably close enough for now.