When the photo voltaic business gathers, these throughout the sector are capable of share current successes, future objectives, urgent considerations, and extra.
On Might 14 and 15, lots of of business professionals, financiers, and different stakeholders within the solar energy business gathered in Paradise Valley, Arizona, for the 12th annual Photo voltaic Summit placed on by GreenTech Media and Wooden Mackenzie to do exactly that. Marketed because the ‘premier convention for outlining the newest business wants for installers, builders, system producers, financiers and regulators,’ this gathering of lots of of the important thing gamers the world over of solar energy supplies crucial features as professionals who share the aim to extend the viability, market penetration, and future prospects of photo voltaic know-how and renewable power extra extensively.
Such a gathering of numerous organizations and individuals who share these widespread objectives provides these in attendance the chance to mirror on the previous yr whereas charting out their coming yr in enterprise. With that in thoughts, Photo voltaic Tribune had the chance to talk with a couple of attendees to listen to how the convention went for them, hear what the priorities look like of the business shifting ahead in 2019, and study what the highest advantages of the photo voltaic convention circuit is for a couple of several types of business members.
Clocking in at only a day and a half, the Photo voltaic Summit included panels, common periods, and extra slender breakout periods. Jordan Blanchard of Reside Oak Financial institution, a monetary establishment that has develop into a serious participant financing photo voltaic tasks, notably loved the breakout periods. These periods have been separated into financing and creating periods, and he attended the financing ones. “A number of dialogue now on photo voltaic plus storage,” he famous, which was one of many features that made the session of prime worth to him in contrast with the extra basic periods.
The dimensions of the 2019 Photo voltaic Summit was just some hundred professionals, which many deemed to be a great measurement the place the most important gamers have been in attendance nevertheless it wasn’t so giant as to make it overwhelming. Blanchard famous that another conferences “are so large that it’s arduous to even discover individuals, a lot much less arrange conferences,” however that the Photo voltaic Summit’s extra intimate measurement allowed for high-value networking.
One other key advantage of the construction of the Photo voltaic Summit is that it’s an space for thought leaders to converge, moderately than simply corporations pushing particular merchandise. As Chuck Ellis of SMA, a worldwide specialist for PV know-how, describes it:
“I choose these sort of environments vs. commerce exhibits since you sometimes have a unique group of individuals which are attending. You are likely to have extra strategic forward-thinking representatives at these sort of conferences as an alternative of simply individuals making an attempt to promote merchandise in cubicles.”
One other distinctive promoting proposition of the Photo voltaic Summit particularly is that it’s placed on at the side of Wooden Mackenzie. As Blanchard famous, “the Wooden Mackenzie people present the info, and that’s one thing that’s actually distinctive to this convention…that’s the distinctive power. I’m general proud of it and planning on going once more subsequent yr.”
The position of the Photo voltaic Summit, in addition to different solar energy conferences like this one, seem to play a extra minor position in setting the photo voltaic business objectives as an entire, however the worth of bringing all of the minds collectively in a single place continues to be notable.
Requested whether or not the conversations and schooling from the Photo voltaic Summit helps information his firm’s course for the subsequent yr, Ellis famous:
“I feel it helps validate a few of our technique, however I don’t know that it actually steers us in anybody path. Does it contribute? Completely. Does it validate issues? Positive. However the general technique comes from our headquarters, not these conferences.” Blanchard shared an analogous sentiment, noting of conferences as an entire that “I don’t assume any of them actually change the course of our enterprise.”
That stated, a couple of subjects have been introduced up that have been notable to these in attendance that Photo voltaic Tribune interviewed:
Blanchard got here into the Photo voltaic Summit keen to speak about power storage, however had his impression confirmed that the know-how is just not but prepared for prime time. “However,” he famous,
“if I had heard on the convention that folks thought it was prepared they usually have been getting storage offers achieved then that perhaps would speed up our want to finance photo voltaic plus storage extra.”
Floating Photo voltaic
An space of pleasure within the photo voltaic group for the expanded prospects it offers in relation to the place installations may be deliberate is in floating photo voltaic. Teresa Barnes attended in her position with the Nationwide Renewable Power Laboratory to debate simply this matter, noting:
“We introduced an replace on the overall standing of the sector and the outcomes of a current NREL publication on the potential for floating PV in the USA. We had very productive conversations with totally different stakeholders who’re curious about PV.”
NREL finds that floating photo voltaic, which isn’t but extremely tapped into in the USA, might ultimately account for 10% of the nation’s complete annual electrical energy era.
U.S. Photo voltaic Coverage
One matter that was on the forefront of Ellis’ thoughts heading into the Photo voltaic Summit was U.S. coverage, such because the current struggle round photo voltaic tariffs. After speaking together with his friends he says he discovered a kind of consensus round his personal concepts, which is beneficial for him to know shifting ahead. He advised Photo voltaic Tribune that
“Whereas I don’t need to get into what different individuals have been speaking about, definitely we’re going to see a short-term influence on enterprise. It’s just like the opposite tariffs which were put into place and different obstacles which have occurred in photo voltaic. The market will regulate and we’ll proceed down the trail we’re operating. The actual query I had is that if it’s a long-term tariff or if we’ll attain an settlement with China and Trump will again off. I feel it’s fairly relative, there appears to be such a dynamic market on this business that there’s all the time one thing of this magnitude happening. It’s probably the most dynamic business I’ve been part of.”
ITC Step Down
Regardless of noting within the preview of the convention that the Photo voltaic Summit “will cowl how the ITC stepdown will influence venture finance,” Blanchard notes he didn’t hear a lot concerning the matter. “Nobody appeared that involved,” he relayed. Including additional,
“So perhaps that shall be a much bigger matter subsequent yr. Individuals will really feel it, however it’s not sufficient to actually diverge present tasks, particularly due to the protected harbor guidelines. So it’s simply not an enormous matter of dialogue.”
Evolution of the Business
One other helpful position these conferences play is one in every of a tent pole, the place tracing the subjects of concern, the main gamers, and the pending considerations from yr to yr is a good way to trace how the business as an entire has advanced. One instance that Ellis famous was,
“the width and breadth of the place photo voltaic goes is increasing fairly quickly. You assume again 5 to 6 years in the past, you actually simply had inverters and modules they usually have been targeted on residential, business, or utility-scale tasks. You didn’t get into integration of grid administration, you didn’t get into power administration, you didn’t get into digital energy crops or virtualization of all that stuff. Not solely is the know-how getting extra superior, however the methods utilities can embrace on the subject of photo voltaic is increasing, the forms of installations which might be viable with storage and sensible grid know-how are advancing shortly, and the photo voltaic business of tomorrow will seldom look the identical because it did yesterday.”
As an entire, the actual worth of the Photo voltaic Summit and comparable conferences is the networking and community-building. The knowledge is essential, however innovation is shifting at a tempo that’s snug sufficient for organizations to maintain up on their very own with out listening to something new or game-changing at these conferences.
When requested concerning the worth of those conferences, Blanchard described that it’s the regulation of diminishing returns:
“In 2016, once we first received into the business, each convention was massively useful on the training aspect and on the networking aspect. However yearly that goes by, we’re much more educated concerning the business and we’ve discovered what we have to study. And so, the training alternative diminishes, however the networking worth is all the time growing.”
Ellis agreed that networking is the true worth, and whereas he enjoys listening to panels and audio system he says,
“I feel the actual worth for me is with the ability to conduct with my peer group and get an understanding of the place they see the business going, what challenges they could be dealing with, and areas by which we will collaborate.”
In an analogous approach, organizations just like the Nationwide Renewable Power Laboratory and different research-based organizations discover these conferences as a key technique to spreading their findings and analyses. Barnes stated they attend photo voltaic conferences “to teach the U.S. photo voltaic group on our work and have interaction with stakeholders working within the downstream business.”
Concerning the writer: Matt Chester is an power analyst in Washington DC, studied engineering and science & know-how coverage on the College of Virginia, and operates Chester Power and Coverage to share information, insights, and recommendation within the fields of power coverage, power know-how, and extra. For extra fast hits along with posts on this weblog, comply with him on Twitter @ChesterEnergy.