As an outsider to the solar industry, I wasn’t sure what to expect at Solar Power International (SPI). Despite my research and attempts to stay up to date on solar technology, I had no idea, to quote one of my least favorite people, that:
It’s gonna be HUUUUUUGE!
Nerding out on my research beforehand via Keyword Planner should have said it all. A top page bid for $26 for “solar companies”? SOMEBODY is paying a lot of money per month to reach the top of the Google results. My anticipation: it MUST be a big industry if the page bids are so high!
What I did not expect was show booths with 3-story tall LED screen columns; 2-story booths replete with stairs and 2nd-floor meeting rooms; or a complete hydrogen production plant. Suddenly, I realized that my trade show experience had been trivial in comparison.
Oh, those poor, crowded people in the Software Pavilion. While this was the busiest area of the show, they also likely had the smallest staff, the smallest budgets and potentially the most room for growth moving forward. Can we give them a little more breathing room? It was clear that companies walking the floor were flocking to these booths to gather as much information as possible. I’m guessing that this most recent branch of the solar technology industry has a lot to offer. They can make things easier for solar installers and small to medium-sized projects.
Someone has seen a gap, or been frustrated by it, like Kevala‘s Grid Assessor. The availability and, more importantly, analysis and interpretation of data, is affecting all businesses. We have the data available, but we’re not always sure what to do with it. Solar software companies are paving the way to make the process to go solar much easier with access to data and the ability to make sense of it. Much like Energy Storage International (ESI) has become nearly the size of SPI, I can imagine the Software Pavilion won’t be backed into the wall for much longer. No one puts Software Baby in the corner!!
If Government Won’t Do It, Business Will
My impression of solar technology adoption is that it doesn’t only happen with voter propositions (Arizona Prop 127 post coming later). Prospectors and business seem to be filling the gap with many creative approaches. I spoke with Hep Solar, a German-based company who finds properties ideal for a solar installation. They install the solar and then sell the property, at a profit. Using their money for good, they bypass the headaches a less experienced building owner might encounter with solar installation. Yes, they make money at it. But in the long run, more of the grid is producing cleaner energy.
Other companies, like Brooklyn Solar Canopy, find a way to work around certain solar installation restrictions. With an easy-to-erect canopy, building and homeowners need not worry about damage to their roof. And bonus: you get an instant covered patio or rooftop lounge.
So Much Solar!
Having only walked the exhibit hall, SPI was still a lot to take in. The pieces of the solar puzzle are complex and diverse. While much of it is like any industry with commodity, sales, profit, production, etc., what lies underneath is the transition of our global power grid. Looking at the exhibit hall, it was easy to get lost in all the glitz and glamour of companies attempting to attract new customers.
To many, a sale is a sale, no matter what industry you’re in. But the grandiose nature and massive developments of solar technology is being funded on a huge scale and is clearly poised to be one of the major players in our future. My small part in this is to translate the message of its importance to the people who are doing the Googling and the reading and the searching. That $26 top of page bid didn’t come from nowhere. Individual residents and businesses are looking for information and reasons to change.