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LG’s Solar Entry Spotlights New Tech Categories

Interesting story broke this week from the Solar Power International show being held in L.A.: LG Electronics has entered the commercial solar industry in North America.

LG plans to sell solar panels for residential, rooftop and commercial applications. It said it will expand its global solar business by 2015 to $2.4 billion and is investing $820 million over the next five years in solar cell research and manufacturing.

LG’s entry into a non-traditional category for the electronics/appliance business is just another indicator as to where the home technology industry may be going in the next few years.

This trend has appeared in the past year or two. As TWICE’s Greg Tarr blogged earlier this week, Panasonic is putting into place a plan to focus on eco-related technologies for the home, for energy generation and storage, while making its existing  CE devices and appliances more energy efficient and more green.

At CEDIA Expo in September there was talk about going after non-traditional categories, such as Home Technology Specialists of America talking about its interest in solar panels and lighting.

Geoff Slevin, solar division VP for LG Electronics and a solar industry veteran who joined the company this year from Carlisle Energy Services and BP Solar, explained that LG sees that with federal and state incentives and consumer interest high, the market for solar in the U.S. should be lucrative in coming years.

“Today 0.6 percent of all electricity consumption in the U.S. is from solar panels. There is a tremendous upside here,” Slevin said.

Initially LG will go after traditional solar distribution — those companies that know how to sell and install systems for stadiums, skyscrapers or residential buildings.

But he noted that LG, with its knowledge of the electronics/appliance channel, will eventually look at its existing customer base to sell home systems.

Of course, after covering CE and major appliances for year, I had to ask about price. Slevin explained that it depended upon the size of the building and the efficiency the owner of the building wanted for its system. “Some buildings can generate 40 percent, 70 percent or 80 percent of its electricity with solar panels.” In other words, the price depends on the technology and size of the installation.

If you think that electronics/appliance retailerss selling solar panels, home health care systems, lighting systems and the like is a real stretch, think of it this way: I’m sure that’s what some retailers must have said 30 years ago about the chances of them selling home telephones, personal computers or car telephones — you know, those shoe-sized items that we now call cellphon