20 June 2012
The consensus among this year’s exhibitors at Intersolar Europe 2012 was that while traffic was down from previous years, the quality of the people and resulting meetings were much better.
Indeed, the pure numbers were from 77,000 visitors in 2011 to 66, 000 this year. Likewise exhibitors were down from 2,280 exhibitors last year to 1,909 this year. This year’s show also was lacking some prominent names such as First Solar. But still, the fact that companies didn’t complain more about fewer visitors shows that quality is valued over quantity, and particularly in these difficult times for the industry.
Some buzzwords dominated the show as well as Intersolar Europe last week, the first one being
- Paradigm shift: The paradigm shift marks the end of the FiT driven ROI thinking toward the levelised costs of electricity (LCOE), which eventually makes PV electricity competitive without subsidies both on large scale and roof-top applications. Or, as Antje Sephan, Conergy spokeswoman put it: “We’re moving away from a pure ROI driven market towards a pure energy market”, where the disposability of energy is a key issue. Regarding the ROI thinking, Christian Greiner-Mai, CEO of GermanSolar AG compared the situation the PV industry was in the last year with a “milk pot boiling over on the hot stove“; and now the heat needs to be gradually reduced. This, however, is not yet possible in storage of PV energy for, which over a hundred solutions were presented at the show last week. Mentioning storage, this leads to the next buzzword, which is
- Vertical diversification: Storage is one way of vertical diversification, or rather integration, but unlike PV production, storage solutions still are not mature and way too expensive as a broad-based alternative for everybody. However, they are part of vertical integration, as well as the strategy in particular of German manufacturers like Conergy, Q-Cells, and Solarwatt to be recognised as system provider rather than pure manufacturer. In that respect, Solarwatt most likely had to switch agendas for its announced press conference on Thursday. Instead, after the ad-hoc message about the failed financial restructuring a day before the press event, it almost entirely dealt with the immediate effects of the German “Chapter 11” protection the company slipped under.
Vertical integration also takes place within companies like Juwi, which uses its experience in large-scale installations to broaden the portfolio with smart home solutions, but as well as for a machine vision company like ISRA, which according to CEO Enis Ersü doesn’t “intend to sell science, but want(s) the customer to have a fast payback,” e.g., through its new multispectral electroluminescent product, which also comes as a mobile application for the installers on-site.
- Internationalization is the third buzzword that echoed through the conference and show halls, both in markets and production. So are the consultants of iLF involved in a study to realize 1,000 MW of solar installations in Dubai by 2030. Soitec, supplier of CPV technology, which has just built the largest CPV plant Italy, has invested in a new manufacturing plant in San Diego and creates 450 new direct jobs there. “Local content is part of what we offer, this is in our interest”, is how Gaetan Borgers, Executive Vice President of the Solar Energy Division, describes the company’s strategy, which now includes six manufacturing plants worldwide. As to markets, certainly China, India, the MENA region, but more and more also South America, are seen as the growth regions of tomorrow and even in the course of this year. An evaluation also shared by Oerlikon’s Dr. Rainer Benz. Besides these regions, the turnkey end to end thin-film silicon PV solutions provider foresees the US as becoming one of the largest markets for installations. As to emerging PV markets in about two years’ time, Argentina and possibly other South American countries will see growing installations.
What else was there at Intersolar Europe 2012? WEEE, the EU waste regulation that now applies for solar panels as well, could give a bad awakening to the industry and to PV Cycle, which is why representatives coming out of this corner already made an appearance in Munich. Solar Novus Today will follow up on this topic soon. Mage Solar, after the bull riding arena last year, once more topped everyone else with their soccer stadium stand, and at the SolarWorld stand the student racers from the SolarWorld GT, a solar powered vehicle on a 28,500 km trip around the world made a pit stop to tell about their exciting adventure.
And, as usual after the Munich show, the Solar Novus Today team heads next month to cover Intersolar North America in San Francisco to bring you latest news from the US. And of course we’ll be back in Germany for PVSEC and again for Intersolar Europe, which takes place 19 to 21 July 2013.
Written by Andreas Breyer, Senior Editor, Germany and Robert Molenaar, European Editor, Solar Novus Today