Last week two major solar trade shows and conferences took place—EU PVSEC in Germany and Solar Power International (SPI) in the US. While the events are very different, with EU PVSEC having more of a research emphasis and SPI with its installation focus, we found common themes in the European and US solar industries.
At Solar Power International, the show floor was bustling with new products, installation techniques and success stories—all of which show the important role that solar is playing in everyday life.
A special highlight of SPI was an address by US Vice President Biden who congratulated the solar industry for “letting the secret out.”
He listed the impressive gains made in solar since President Obama took office: Solar has increased 20 fold; solar jobs have grown by more than 86%: in the US more people are working in solar than work at Google, Apple, Twitter and Facebook combined. With another 1 million installations forecast for US in the coming year, solar is taking its rightful place as a mainstream energy solution.
EU PVSEC 2015 Conference General Chair Dr.-Ing. Stefan Rinck, CEO of Singulus Technologies, said that the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) will continue to decrease. “We expect a decrease by 30 – 50% from 2014 to 2030. For me it is obvious that PV will have a good chance to be the cheapest form of electricity generation in many countries in the coming decades."
Given that hardware cost has come down significantly, the most critical challenge to solar affordability nationwide is that of driving down soft costs for customer acquisition, operations and financing, much of which is created by inconsistent requirements and misaligned incentives, according to Deep Chakraborty, CEO of Enact Systems, in the SPI session “Eviscerating Soft Costs"
Investment Tax Credit
At SPI the reduction in the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) was the hot topic. The ITC is a 30% tax credit on commercial and residential solar installations that’s in effect through 31 December 2016. It’s uncertain as to whether the US Congress will vote to extend the credit at its current level or let it drop to 10% for commercial, with no tax credit for residential.
Opinions vary widely on how this will affect the industry, but the fact is that the possible expiration is accelerating solar installations right now and causing massive uncertainty beyond 2016. Industry experts seem to agree that extending the ITC by five years, through 2021, will enable the industry to grow at a steady, sustainable pace. According to Scott Wiater, President of Standard Solar, the five-year period is key. “Costs will have come down in the next four years. Let’s not kill the industry before we reach the plateau.” As Vice President Biden suggested, why not take half of the $5 billion given to the oil industry annually in tax credits and help reduce the deficit and stabilize clean energy industries in the US.
At long last energy storage solutions are coming to market. Outback Power’s Skybox offers battery storage in both off-grid and on-grid connected operation.
Eaton offers the Power Xpert grid-connect energy storage inverter that is designed to increase electrical resiliency in utility-scale applications. It works with a variety of battery chemistries to store and transmit power when needed.
Trojan was showcasing its Reliant AGM, advanced deep-cycle batteries for renewable energy, remote telecommunications and backup power applications.
SimpliPhi Power’s lithium ferrous phosphate batteries use a proprietary architecture that eliminates the need for cooling or ventilation—offering a 98% efficiency rate.
These are just a few examples of what was shown last week at the two industry trade shows. Other hot topics in the industry include advancing power electronics, solar resource assessment, advanced mounting systems, integrated PV modules, data analytics, single-axis trackers, mergers and acquisitions, and more. Solar Novus Today will continue its comprehensive coverage of these topics and more throughout 2016, what is certain to be a pivotal year in the world of solar.
Written by Anne Fischer, Managing Editor, Solar Novus Today