Hot Topics in Solar Reflected at Intersolar North America

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Intersolar North America may be behind us, but the trends in solar represented there are still going strong. We thought we’d take a look back at Intersolar with its CEO, Markus Elsässer, as a clue to what lies ahead.

As usual, Intersolar North America covered a range of topics crucial to the North American solar industry. The conference attracted more than 17,000 attendees, including over 200 speakers and 530 exhibitors representing a range of areas: PV technologies, balance of system components, mounting and tracking systems, solar heating and cooling, and energy storage companies.

Elsässer noted a change in focus for 2014: “This year,” he told us, “the exhibition and conference expanded its focus on downstream solar applications and energy storage due to demand from our attendees. At the exhibition hall, we hosted the first Contractors Day, co-organized by California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA).” The conference also hosted a popular daylong Solar Finance and Asset Symposium.

The topics covered, Elsässer pointed out, reflect trends in the North American solar industry. “To continue increasing the amount of solar energy connected to the grid, the U.S. solar industry needs to continue to look for ways to reduce installation costs and simplify the permitting/financing process. We added workshops targeted at veteran installers and those new to the industry to help bring them up to speed on changes within the market, and showcase the technology and policy solutions that will help the industry grow.”

And of course, energy storage was a hot topic at this year’s conference. “Energy storage is also growing in importance, as a solution for intermittent power, microgrids, power smoothing and much more,” said Elsässer. “In California, AB 2514 mandates that California IOUs must procure at least 1.325 GW of storage by 2020. The California legislature also allocated $415 million in incentive funding for behind the meter storage projects through the Self Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) for the period of 2015 – 2019. Sessions at the exhibition and conference provided professionals with insight into how California is driving the storage market and how the overall North American market will grow as a result. Currently, California is home to 119 of the 330 energy storage projects in the United States, which, paired with the policy incentives, positions California as the energy storage market leader.”

Sessions on storage at Intersolar included the Energy Storage Press Breakfast, which shed light on the most important battery applications for the solar industry. Intersolar’s partnership with the National Alliance for Advanced Technology Batteries (NAATBatt) brought valuable information about the sector to show’s attendees. Elsässer noted, “The conference sessions on energy storage were packed — some with standing room only!”

What do developments in storage mean for solar providers? “For residential project developers,” Elsässer said, “understanding how net metering regulations work is key to predicting the value of integrating energy storage solutions with a system. For utility-scale developers, there are many technologies with different benefits that must be considered in project design.”

He added, “Increasingly, solar professionals are exploring the opportunities for microgrids. Advanced storage technologies have helped make these projects a reality. For example, Intersolar AWARD winner in the Solar Projects in North America category, Princeton Power Systems, was selected for their PV project that incorporated battery-storage and fuel back-up systems. Additionally, two of the three winners of the electrical energy storage AWARD — who were honored at Intersolar Europe — are American companies, which speaks to the impressive amount of innovation the sector has seen over the past year.”

The storage discussion is not over. We can expect more focus on this hot topic at Intersolar North America 2015.