14 July 2011
After three days of total immersion in the North American solar industry at Intersolar in San Francisco, several common themes emerged. Most noticeably is the maturation of the market.
Nancy Hartsoch, VP of Marketing and Business Development at SolFocus said that at long last they no longer have to explain what concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) is. Visitors get CPV now, and now what needs to be explained is why it’s best in high sun areas, how it’s very environmentally friendly (for example, it does not use water). Aside from the strong presence at the show of CPV leaders that included SolFocus, Soitec and Amonix, a report was announced this week on the environmental impact of CPV by the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at UC Berkeley (and commissioned by the CPV Consortium), which provides information on lifecycle assessment such as energy payback, embedded greenhouse gases, cradle-to-cradle footprint—showing that CPV leads the industry in these areas compared to solar thermal generators (CSP).
Next is quality and longevity and to ensure these, training, certification and standards are key. Ezra Auerback, Executive Director of the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) said that “the growth of the PV industry is nothing short of phenomenal,” but that key to today’s success is training and certification. He noted that back in the 70s solar thermal got “a black eye” because “anyone with a screw driver, wire stripper and ladder” could become a solar installer. He said that today having a certified staff for PV and solar thermal is a measurable way to build credibility.
Then there are the tried and true products, technologies or manufacturing methods that have been used in other industries that are now finding a home in solar. Bruker Nano has a stylus profier, which Andrew Masters, VP of Strategic Marketing and Business Development, said is similar to what’s been in use since the 1960s. Today it’s being used to measure thin film thickness to help manufacturers boost efficiencies. Bruker also has a higher end optical profiler that uses white light interferometry as well as atomic force microscopes. Suffice it to say that these instruments have been in use in many other areas, but are rapidly becoming mainstays in solar manufacturing.
Solar on every rooftop? The City of San Francisco used the occasion of Intersolar to announce the Solar@Work program, which offers multiple commercial enterprises group purchasing power along with a solar lease program. Looking out over the skyline of San Francisco we saw a good deal of solar installed, but the empty rooftops are crying out to become energy generators. This program will help businesses put that real estate to good use.
And last but not least is the growing importance of off the grid solar. Through rural electrification projects in Brazil, Mexico and Peru, according to Dr. Manfred Horn, Professor at the National Engineering University in Peru, small home PV systems are being brought to these areas, which with government subsidies cost around $2000US or less. Other examples of off-grid use are solar powered mobile applications such as Global Solar’s fold-up generators used by the military and Outback Power’s portable systems used in recreational vehicles, to power remote medical clinics in disaster areas, and more.
, PV Cells & Modules
, Testing & Certification
, Energy Storage
, Latin America
, Shows & Conferences
, Rural Electrification