When it comes to solar, it can sometimes feel like the West coast is more than 10 years ahead of the Southeast region – probably because they are! By a variety of measures, from installed capacity, to advanced renewable policies, to the shear number of local solar jobs and the entrepreneurial community that is constantly developing ways to advance solar, the West coast is a much more mature solar market than most areas in the Southeast. These cross-country differences were highlighted in the recent Intersolar North America Conference and Exhibition, which I had the opportunity to attend and participate in.
As with any successful conference or event, there were a lot of very interesting conversations and eye-opening discussions about the challenges and opportunities that the solar industry is facing across North America. The next step, now, is to share those conversations and continue to take action and move forward, armed with new knowledge and strategy.
I had the opportunity to participate in a conference session on Monday afternoon titled “Global PV Markets: Performance at its Best – North America”. The presentations were followed by a diverse panel which included: Paula Mints of Solar PV Market Research, Galen Barbose of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Katie Bolcar Rever of SEIA, Bernadette Del Chiaro of CalSEIA, Stephane Dufrenne of Upsolar America Inc., and Tony Clifford of Standard Solar Inc. As I discussed the current state of the solar market in the Southeast with this international group of professionals, it was very clear that we need to continue to fill in the gaps between the mature and younger solar markets, as well as continue to fight for good policy. The solar ITC was a hot topic of discussion as well as the current Floridians for Solar Choice ballot initiative that continues to gain momentum in the Sunshine State.
Another highlight of the week for Southeast solar was Conergy’s announcement that they are moving their North American headquarters to Miami, Florida. This is great news for the solar industry in the Sunshine State, who, despite being ranked 3rd in the nation for solar potential, Florida continues to lag behind in both solar capacity and solar jobs. It was very encouraging to see the amazing cross-country response to Conergy’s announcement and energy truly underscored the importance of the continued development of the Southeast solar industry.
Solar Power World hosted “Solar Speaks LIVE” throughout the conference, and I sat down with editor Kathie Zipp on Wednesday to do a segment on the importance of solar education and workplace development. The segment was streaming live from the Unirac booth on the show floor, and it was a fun format that allowed us to discuss the continued efforts to educate communities about solar and ways to ensure that we are developing a knowledgeable, diverse, and effective workforce.
There were many other inspiring events throughout the week as well, and I certainly got plenty of walking exercise across beautiful downtown San Francisco. The Women in Cleantech networking event and Women in Solar Energy (WISE) breakfast were a couple of my favorites, as well the Solar Summerfest where Enphase had set up an photo booth for plenty of #solarselfies.
Intersolar North America was a great reminder that even though we can view solar as a battle or a fight, because it truly is, there is so much positive action and development happening as well, all across the country. From inspiring panels and conversations, to silly photo booths, there is so much that is GOOD in the solar industry, and I am truly encouraged for journey up ahead! Thanks for a great conference, Intersolar!