If renewable energy has become a religion for some, Jigar Shah has been preaching its gospel from the very beginning. His fascination with solar power started in grade school. After college the Illinois native worked at a host of solar companies through the 1990s, when the business prospects for green energy were tenuous.
In September 2003, Shah struck out on his own and founded SunEdison around the idea of selling solar power as a service instead of capital equipment. Whole Foods Market in Providence was one of two original SunEdison commercial customers to take advantage of “no money-down solar,” the business model that would go on to make SunEdison the world’s largest solar-services provider.
Now the owner of a renewable energy consulting company after selling SunEdison in 2009, Shah visited Rhode Island in December to discuss the future of renewable energy at the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association’s monthly event in Providence.
He recently spoke about solar power and his new book, “Climate Wealth,” which argues that capital markets and entrepreneurs are poised to unlock an environmental revolution.
PBN: What is SunEdison’s connection to Rhode Island?
SHAH: Whole Foods signed two contracts with us, one for Providence and one for Edgewater, N.J. So you were one of our first two projects.
PBN: What did SunEdison pioneer that wasn’t available before?
SHAH: We invented no-money-down solar. The vast majority of people in the marketplace who wanted to put solar on their roof never wanted to use their own capital – there was always something more important for them to spend that money on. We invented this concept of no-money-down solar.