I had a fantastic trip to Intersolar filled with some great conversations, a few animated debates, new friends, and a lot of learning. Here are my top 5 highlights:
With half a floor dedicated to Energy Storage, batteries were a frequent topic of conversation. There were 28 companies displaying Li-Ion, lead acid or flow batteries and a host of others selling energy management solutions. There is no clear leader amongst these companies, and most attendees agreed that the energy storage industry closely resembles the early days of the solar industry. We will likely see a lot of turmoil and consolidation as these companies respond to new regulations, strong competition, and broadening markets, but I expect a thriving industry will emerge!
Walking the exhibit floor of Intersolar is like a scavenger hunt of finding where old colleagues are now working. Dubbed the “Solar Hop,” it is incredibly common for people to jump from one company to another as the industry evolves. At one point I was chatting with three former Bloom Energy colleagues with whom I was working just 1 year ago. Today, we are scattered between energy storage, solar development, racking manufacturing, and consulting. I hope this will eventually settle down, but for now, it is encouraging a lot of collaboration and competition.
SEI’s 25th Anniversary
No solar conference is complete without some celebrating! I started my career interning at Solar Energy International’s, so I was thrilled to attend their 25th anniversary party. Complete with signature cocktails (I preferred “Dirty Energy,” a drink styled after an old-fashioned) the annual Battle of the Bands competition (Congrats to Inovateous for the win), and a jovial crowd, SEI and QuickMount PV threw a fantastic party.
After the reactions from SPI 2013, I thought Booth Babes were a thing of the past. Alas, Talesun missed the memo and had some very scantily clad women dressed as bunnies. Intersolar attendees are still overwhelmingly white men, and Talesun’s insulting marketing plan further highlights how much we need more diversity in our industry.
When I was last at Intersolar in 2014, module washing companies were the next big thing. This year, it’s customer acquisition platforms. Business plans range from drone fly-overs, to independent consulting for residential customers, to finance options for installers. It will be interesting to see who returns in 2017.