As the North American solar energy market looks toward another record-breaking year, a standing-room only audience packed the Grand Ballroom at San Francisco’s InterContinental Hotel to hear fresh insights on the challenges and opportunities impacting the industry during the keynote session of Intersolar North America, the solar industry’s most-attended exhibition and conference dedicated to the North American market.
“As the first major industry show in the United States each year, Intersolar North America is where attendees flock to learn about the trends shaping the marketplace,” said Markus Elsaesser, CEO of Solar Promotion International GmbH, organizer of Intersolar North America.
The U.S. solar market is expected to grow by 30 percent in 2015, reaching a total of 8.5 gigawatts (GW) in installed capacity. Nationally, the solar industry employed more than 173,800 in 2014, which represents a 21.8 percent growth in industry employment over the previous year and outpaces the national average. Solar industry advocates, N.Y. State Sen. Kevin Parker and Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA), joined Tesla co-founder and CTO JB Straubel onstage to discuss the critical turning points the industry will face in the next year—specifically the growing role of energy storage paired with solar systems, as well as policy initiatives.
“The energy industry’s next decade will look different because of the demand for storage technology, and we are working to drive down the price of storage and improve the performance of batteries,” Straubel said. “Storage is a key part of moving us closer to a grid that is 100 percent renewable, and bringing more solar online. We’ve demonstrated that by increasing a battery’s energy capacity, you can fundamentally reduce costs. That moves us closer to realizing our goal of transforming how energy is generated.”
With the expiration of the federal investment tax credit (ITC) top of mind in solar, CALSEIA Executive Director Bernadette Del Chiarodiscussed additional upcoming policy challenges, particularly related to net energy metering and renewable portfolio standards, and outlined what it will take to win these critical campaigns.
“Like any growing industry, the next few years are going to be tumultuous in solar, but we can come out stronger by working together and increasing the number and diversity of voices calling for more solar power,” Del Chiaro said.
California leads the United States in terms of solar industry policy and installed capacity, and several East Coast states, such as New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, have become some of the fastest-growing PV markets in the United States.
“The game has changed in 2015—New York’s speed of solar growth has increased 300 percent in the past year, thanks to strong, effective policies and the support of dedicated solar professionals,” said New York State Sen. Kevin S. Parker, a ranking member of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee. “Intersolar North America’s focus on energy storage, financing and installer best practices provides the knowledge necessary to develop the market further. New York is proof that solar makes sense in many markets, and I’m excited to see how the partnerships developed here will further the adoption of renewable energy in the U.S. and beyond.”
The opening ceremony kicked off Intersolar North America, which returned to San Francisco—the heart of the U.S. solar industry and the country’s largest market—for the eighth year in a row. Throughout the course of its three-day exhibition, Intersolar North America expects more than 18,000 attendees to visit approximately 500 exhibitors touting the latest in solar technologies and services. Solar professionals, policymakers and industry advocates travel from across the world to see new innovations in photovoltaics, energy production, balance of system components and solar heating and cooling technologies, and hear about the trends shaping the marketplace.
New to this year’s exhibition is the electrical energy storage™ (ees) North America special exhibition, an extension of the world’s largest industry platform for storage devices used in combination with PV, where nearly 50 companies will exhibit. In partnership with NAATBatt International, Intersolar North America expanded its focus on energy storage to educate the solar industry on this rapidly growing sector. According to a white paper published by GTM Research, and commissioned by Intersolar and CALSEIA, the U.S. solar-plus-storage market will grow to $246 million in 2015, $643 million in 2016 and by 2020 will be a $3.1 billion industry.
“Intersolar and ees North America are the best places for experienced solar PV developers and installers to learn about emerging opportunities in solar-storage technology and the economic and safety challenges that must be overcome in order to see its widespread use in behind-the-meter projects and on the grid,” said NAATBatt President James Greenberger.
Additionally, the ees stage will host presentations from exhibitors, along with special events that cover large-scale grid integration of renewable energies, residential-scale PV and storage systems and an overview of electricity storage technologies. The stage will also feature a presentation from GTM Research on Tuesday, July 14 at 4:30 p.m. on its white paper, “Solar-Plus-Storage Market: Market Drivers, Economics, Outlook.” The paper will be available for free download.
This post was prepared by Solar Thermal Magazine staff.