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Welcome to Solar Fred's "Solar Aardvark Shop"

Jun 21, 2009

Thank you for coming. Please make yourself comfortable, because by the end of this first post, you may feel uncomfortable; it's my hope, however, that you'll feel optimistic about what we all can do for solar.

I’m sure you’re wondering at least two--if not three--things immediately:

1)      Who is Solar Fred?

2)      What’s the point of this blog?

3)      What’s with the "Solar Aardvark Shop" title?

Excellent questions. Here are the answers: ::continue::

Who is Solar Fred?

“Solar Fred” is actually my pen name. I write several blogs, but my main site is at, a solar referral site that is geared toward educating consumers about solar PV basics and the various ways to finance it. It’s no secret that my real name is Tor Valenza and that I’ve been a solar advocate since the 1980’s….but not in the business until very recently.

That makes me a solar hybrid. On the one hand, I have a consumer perspective. I rent, so I don’t own solar PV, but I want to one day. On the other hand, I’m fairly well educated in solar PV. I talk to local Los Angeles installers at home shows, as well as pick up the phone, email, and tweet to out of town solar companies. Somehow I came onto the radar of the Renewable Energy World editors, and they graciously invited me to set up shop here. I’m grateful to REW for the opportunity to contribute my thoughts. That brings me to question numero deux:

What’s the point of this blog?

In a word, communication. I want to help you communicate about solar in all its forms to the public. Because whatever you’re doing now, it’s not enough. I drank the solar Kool-Aid 30 years ago when I was a kid in New York and heard about the Citicorp building’s solar power plans. That PV system never worked—I know—but that’s the past.

What I find in my daily life today is that the public is still stuck in that 1980’s mentality. Namely, that solar’s not affordable and that the technology isn’t there yet. The technology is plenty “here” and if you live in a net metered, solar subsidy state/utility, it’s plenty affordable. But most people don’t know that, even here in sunny, subsidy rich, net metered Los Angeles.

So the purpose of this blog is to encourage you to find new ways to reach the street beyond advertising. I want to explore with you the new ways of communicating to consumers about solar, its costs, its value, and of course, your products.

I will offer my own insights about the new frontier of "C to C" marketing, but this blog is not a one way communication device. I’m calling on both solar realists and dreamers alike to add to the conversation here. Share your best ways to communicate to both businesses and the public—as well as the worst ways. Tell your war stories. Bring the unenlightened up to speed (including me), push the envelope on what’s been done, and inform us all how it can be done better.

I can hear some of you shouting right now. You’re saying, “But, Solar Fred! I’m not going to give away my trade marketing secrets!” Communication is not a trade secret. In fact, if you hold back, that’s not communicating, is it? And I will tell you that if you, as an industry, do not share your ideas on how to reach and educate the broad general public first, your businesses will all suffer for it. Solar will still happen, yes, but at a much slower pace and with tougher struggles against politics and other non-renewable energy interests.

I’m not just addressing installers and solar panel companies. Quite the opposite. Even if your customers are in the B to B supply chain, you must talk, blog, podcast, vlog, tweet, and honestly and respectfully challenge the public’s notion that “Solar’s a nice idea, but too expensive.” Or “Solar’s a nice idea, but I’m going to wait until the technology improves and/or the price comes down.”  

These methods of communication are all known, really. It’s how you do it. The words and images you blog, the customer service “experience” you offer, these are the things you can keep to build your brand. And that brings me to the last question.

Why did I name this blog my “Solar Aardvark Shop?”

Because this blog is an example of what I’m talking about. This is my particular voice, which has always been a bit absurd, but it's authentic to me. I'm not saying that you should change your marketing strategy to be more absurd. Not at all.

What I am saying is that I’ve just given you a unique experience, haven’t I? Whether you agree with me or not, you’re going to remember this Solar Aardvark Shop, aren’t you. You may smile when you think about a solar aardvark. You may email this to someone or ask a colleague, “Hey, did you read that weird Solar Aardvark blog?” And your colleague is going to smile and ask, “Huh? Solar Aardvark? And then you’re going to start an open dialog about how I’m urging new ways and ideas to spread the word about solar being ready for prime time. That dialog? That's my product today.

Some of you may be sold. Now you comment below, good or bad, and you might feel a sense of ownership, a member of the club, because you contributed to the Solar Aardvark Shop experience; you even know what the heck it’s about. You might even mention this blog to a friend who’s not in the solar business, and I would say Good! Perfect! Brilliant! Anything to forward the conversation about solar and changing the public’s 1980’s thinking.

And what if every solar company throughout the supply chain was reaching beyond their little solar B to B world into the street? Think how much faster the 2009 solar realities would spread. Think about how your brand will be in the public’s mind when Jane down the block has heard of an inverter and knows what it does. Think about the school principal who basically knows what a “PPA” is, how it functions, and then educates parents—who are business owners—and the local school board politicians about its benefits.

So that's the point of this blog. Communication. With each other and to the public. More in later posts about digital and non digital social networking, its minimal costs, and why it’s so important to solar’s future. I’ll be contributing to the Solar Aardvark Shop at least once a week, and probably more often, so please bookmark, check back, and become a regular customer.

Thank you for reading, and on behalf of everyone who believes in solar as a realistic part of our energy needs today, I once again ask for your perspective and insights in the comments section below.

Tor Valenza aka “Solar Fred” is a solar industry consultant and partner at solar referral service, You can contact him through and follow him on Twitter @SolarFred.

The information and views expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author and not necessarily those of or the companies that advertise on this Web site and other publications. This blog was posted directly by the author and was not reviewed for accuracy, spelling or grammar.

Tor Valenza aka "Solar Fred" is the Chief Marketing Officer of Impress Labs' new Solar Lab, a PR, marketing and communications firm dedicated to helping solar companies reach solar customers through innovative messaging, branding, PR, and social media communications. Follow him on Twitter @solarf...


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