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Report from Solar Power International 2010

Report from Solar Power International 2010

Solar Power International

Solar Power International Conference – Los Angeles, CA – Oct 11-14, 2010

Mac McDowell, Solar Oregon Solar Ambassador

Last month I attended the Solar Power International 2010 (SPI10) Conference in Los Angeles California.  This was my third time at this annual event and it is getting bigger and better every year.  SPI (previously called Solar Power Conference and Expo), was created in 2004 when the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) joined together in a partnership. With an industry growth rate of more than 40% per year, there was a need for a single event where industry could come together with potential customers, policymakers, investors, and other parties necessary for continued rapid growth. It didn't take long for the event to establish itself as the premiere solar event in the US, growing from 1,100 attendees to over 25,000 in just six years! 


At the first day opening session leaders of SEPA/SEIA presented this year’s conference theme and slogan – Team Solar – which they said is symbolic of the collaboration between those of us building a new solar energy industry here in America.  Their message was clear … Rah, Rah, Rah, Teamwork & Collaboration = Opportunity.  I am finding this is a consistent theme within the solar and green community and it’s become clear that the nascent green economy is a collaborative endeavor.  Rhone Resch (SEIA) presented his vision which included a large job creation objective that he said will get us to 220,000 new green collar jobs by 2015.  This will require a market growth of 10GW per year increase on average, he said, and he figures doing this will make America the largest solar market in the world.  Rhone stated, “by achieving these goals USA could replace 10 coal burning power plants per year”, which is an admirable goal and one we should all support. 

Rhone and Julie Hamm (SEPA) promoted the idea that solar is one of few bright spots in the current US economy and they proudly rattled off the accolades:

·Solar is the fastest growing energy producer in the USA;

·Solar is creating jobs & opportunities in a down economy – now employing 93,000 people;

·Added approx 1GW of photovoltaic power this past year = 100% growth;

·Installed 3 million feet of solar thermal;

·Noted that 33 million Americans have already signed the Solar Bill of Rights.

These speakers also pointed out that although solar has experienced the fastest growth over this past year it still remains the smallest segment of energy production here in America.    However, it is evident that the solar community and utility companies are no longer adversarial and are now much more collaborative.  Julie mentioned that 5% of the top ten investors in the solar industry are major utility companies.  This bodes well for all solar installations including utility-scale solar plants in America.

SPI has truly become an international event, attended by many Europeans, Asians, and South Americans, but well balanced with the good folk from southern and mid-western parts of North America.  The world is here and they see America as a “target rich” environment for solar power.  I don’t think they’re far wrong.  China's presence at this show has increased to huge proportions as Chinese companies and people are everywhere and it is jarring to see how far-how fast they've arrived in the solar industry. 

I thought it was wild that SolarWorld presented a fashion show on the exhibit floor with their theme, “SOLAR is the New BLACK”.  While the designer talked about his ‘inspiration’, lanky models walked on a runway composed of SolarWorld’s chic, new, black high-performance solar panels, spotlighting sustainable development of two of the world’s biggest industries – fashion and energy.  “Sustainable fashion is a lifestyle choice, as is renewable energy”, stated the designer.  

I ran into Liz Merry on the exhibit floor and reintroduced myself.  Liz was the first person I took a workshop from called “Solar Industry Orientation: Find your Dream Job in Solar”.  Her one-day orientation session helped launch me into the clean energy world and I am sentimental.  Liz is best known for writing a column for the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) monthly publication Solar Today – her column is called “Ask Ms. Liz“. When I mentioned I’ve been working on solarizing residential Portland, and that I’m an avid blogger on sustainability, Liz invited me to co-write an article on the subject for Solar Today.  I assured her I would follow-up and hope I remember to do so.


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