Press ReleasesBy JENNIFER KHO
Leggy female models are commonplace at fashion events and even car shows, but in a sign that the solar industry is edging toward the mainstream, a veteran of last year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition will take to the floor of the Solar Power International conference this week in Anaheim, Calif.
Melissa Baker, 22, a model who has also worked with outfitters like Abercrombie & Fitch, Express and Sisley, will work the room at the solar conference, interviewing executives from solar companies like First Solar, SolarCity, SunEdison and Sharp Solar.
The interviews are part of a launch plan for a new Web site, SolarVisionaries.org, whose stated goal is to “elevate the message and expand the audience for the solar industry.”
Ms. Baker admitted that she’s still learning the industry. “I’m just getting started,” she said. “I’m not an expert, but I’m trying – and I’m learning – and I would definitely like to do every little thing I can to help.”
Joe Boyce, founder of SolarVisionaries.org and the president of the renewable-energy marketing startup Gaia Worldwide, said he’d long been interested in profiling leaders in the solar industry, but didn’t think he could attract high-profile executives to do the interviews on his own.
The idea is to raise awareness of solar power by highlighting the people who are building the solar industry.
“Melissa Baker is a supermodel with a massive global audience, and the demographics of her fans align very well with the end users for the solar market,” Mr. Boyce said. “Melissa automatically brings me a built-in audience – hundreds of thousands of people will be looking at these videos just because of her. Not to mention, who’s going to want to turn down an interview with a supermodel?”
Still, Mr. Boyce said he thought that the industry could use some help.
“The U.S., in my opinion, is not meeting its potential,” he said. “If you’ve got solar on your house, you’re still seen as a geeky person, but solar should be something you aspire to have.”
The solar industry is in the midst of an oversupply of panels, with falling prices and a shrinking market this year after the Spanish government capped its incentive at a much lower level than last year.
In these market conditions, solar companies have to learn how to sell, Mr. Boyce said.
Ms. Baker said she became inspired to take action when she saw the effect of global warming during a photo shoot on top of glaciers in Iceland for the leather and suede retailer Danier.
“I was in such shock,” she said. “I want to do something to make people notice. If everyone does little things here and there – you don’t have to go crazy with it – I think it will help a lot.”