I wasn’t too sad to leave the Cleveland snow behind for the Long Beach Sun. California was the perfect spot for the Renewable Energy World and Solar Power Gen conference. The state’s high energy costs and legislative support are perfect ingredients for a thriving clean-energy climate. Although the show was small (just over 100 booths), exhibitors and attendees agreed the trip was worth it.
“This is the first big show of the year for us, so we’re here to create brand awareness and find distributors, integrators, and installers,” said one representative from Growatt. “We want to show everyone the new kids on the block.” The inverter manufacturer stresses their model, which they say is smaller, yet, more efficient (98.5%) than others on the market. Growatt is excited to reach Cali’s residential audience. “California will do tons of residential installations this year and we want to have a piece of that.”
Aerotek Staffing Agency and S&C Electric Company also received some good leads from the show. S&C, however, focused more on the utility-scale market. “We’re basically the Geek Squad for those starting to work on larger-scale projects,” said one representative. The switchgear provider sees utility-solar projects taking off with the uncertainty of a wind production tax credit extension. “Wind is complicated to install and maintain,” he said. “The industry needs more time and innovation. Solar is ready to go.”
One of the innovations I found most interesting at the show was the software Clean Power Finance offers. The company’s respresentative Kristian Hanelt, who also spoke on one of the show’s panels, says solar isntallers can use the software to connect sales, system design, and financing. The program allows access to the most current energy prices for faster quotes and proposals, and system design including string sizing and Solmetric software integration. “It’s basically a Salesforce for installers and integrators,” he said. The software takes into consideration aspects such as current energy rates, tariffs, and energy usage to determine optimum system size for homes or businesses, along with automated deal processing to accelerate approval. Last year, 40% of U.S. residential solar systems were sold using CPF Tools.
The conference also hosted plenty of panels. One about offshore wind discussed moving from power purchase agreements to merchant optimization by combining advanced weather forecasting to enhance grid integration and make wind more compatible. Another on financing renewable energy projects, a hot topic and so especially lively, discussed integrating natural gas and renewable energy together in projects, along with battery technologies, to adjust risks with optimized prices and reliable energy production. Still, the panel agreed there is almost no way to eliminate financial risk in renewable energy projects. “There’s no way we can know what will happen in 20 years,” one speaker noted. “We’re just making educated guesses from what we can just make out on the horizon.” The panel also stressed the importance of tax credits, subsidies, and a national renewable portfolio standard. “Even extending the PTC through 2016 would hugely help the industry.”
Besides the conference, I also enjoyed a great seafood meal along the shore where I could view the Queen Mary. The ocean liner dominated the transatlantic passenger transportation market until jets came along in the late 1950s. She’s now docked permanently and used as a hotel full of history-buffs and possibly ghosts. Care to spend the night?
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