After several weeks of economic doom and gloom in the news we walked into a room full of squeeky new booths full of optimistic and excited people showing and talking about a new world where responsible companies lead the way to a renewable energy future. How refreshing is that!

A DAY AT SOLAR POWER 2008

Bob Hetherington

EarthToys Renewable Energy Article
After several weeks of economic doom and gloom in the news we walked into a room full of squeeky new booths full of optimistic and excited people showing and talking about a new world where responsible companies lead the way to a renewable energy future. How refreshing is that!

A Day at Solar Power 2008

Bob Hetherington


We spent a whirlwind day at Solar Power 2008 in San Diego and it was inspiring. After several weeks of economic doom and gloom in the news we walked into a room full of squeeky new booths full of optimistic and excited people showing and talking about a new world where responsible companies lead the way to a renewable energy future. How refreshing is that!

Companies are expanding, hiring and exploring new frontiers.

EarthToys started reporting on the renewable energy world in 2002 when a solar show basically meant going out in the country somewhere to see some homegrown systems aimed at off-grid life. While OK for a few ... this was not the answer for energy independence for cities and countries.

Now we are seeing a tradeshow full of black suits, executives, engineers and investment opportunities. Whether you like it or not, this is how an industry grows solutions for the masses. In fact, many European reps that I talked with are still surprised at how small North American shows are. So, there is still lots to do.

Here are some of the companies that we visited and what they do:

SPG Solar

SPG Solar is a proven leader in the design and installation of photovoltaic power systems. With over 1,200 grid-connected PV systems in service throughout the Western United States and a senior staff with decades of experience in electrical engineering, construction and project development, They are hiring and expanding rapidly. Large installations are the specialty and include schools, wineries, public works and more.

Working with their sister company Thompson Technology Industries, Inc. they showed off what they call a Floatovoltaic™ solar array which is basically a field of solar panels floating on a reservoir at a winery. The system generates electricity from a land surface that would otherwise be wasted saving the winery from digging up valuable grapevines to locate the array.

Evergreen Solar

The ES-A Series is a range of high quality String Ribbon(TM) solar panels offering exceptional performance, cost effective installation and industry-leading environmental credentials. With a design driven by customers, these panels feature new extended length cables that can eliminate home-run wiring, new clickable connectors that make connections between panels quick and reliable, and a new low-voltage configuration that enables the most cost-effective commercial-scale installations.

Evergreen cannot build factories fast enough to meet the demand. Their latest in Devens, Massachusetts is due to come online soon and will increase Evergreen Solar's production capacity in Massachusetts by 75 megawatts and double its employee base in the state to more than 600.

SMA America, Inc.

SMA America, Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of global solar technology giant SMA Solar Technology AG, has unveiled the next generation Sunny Central 250U central inverter for commercial photovoltaic (PV) systems. The updated unit delivers industry-leading efficiency—97 percent, by CEC-weighting standards—along with an integrated isolation transformer and an updated user interface with an intuitive graphical LCD display. Best of all, at a time when commercial demand for solar power has never been greater, the Sunny Central 250U is available immediately.

In addition they are coming out soon with a new line of Residential Inverters that fit nicely in the stud space of a home making for a nice neat installation.

The European Invasion

We talked with several European companies including Power One and Vaillant Solar Systems that are entering the US market, seeing it as the next major opportunity for them. One great comment ... "In Germany we have 50% of the amount of sunshine as California and everywhere we look there are solar panels on the roofs of homes. What is taking the U.S. so long to do the same here?" I wish I had a better answer for him but all I could say was that the U.S. consumer seems more focused on instant gratification (granite coutertops and marble tubs) than long term investments. I hope this will change now.

Enphase Energy

The Enphase Micro-inverter System consists of three components:

  • The Micro-inverter that attaches to the racking beneath each solar module and converts DC power to grid-compliant AC power
  • The Envoy Communications Gateway that collects performance information from each solar module to a proprietary website for use by the customer
  • The Enlighten website where Enphase customers can monitor and manage their solar power systems 24 hours a day

I think this is the most innovative solution that I saw at the show. Not only the concept of inverters for each panel ... but the monitoring and management software that was demonstrated is top notch.

Carmanah Technologies

Focused as we are on solutions, this company makes some great products that integrate solar collection with lighting. To name a few they have Marine Lanterns for buoys, solar powered LED lighting for all kinds of applications, solar powered street and bus-stop lights, portable solar power and charging systems as well as LED Illuminated signs.

Solar Thermal Systems

I think solar thermal systems are under emphasized in the rush to photovoltaics. It seems to me that every home should have solar hot water if there is enough sun to warrant it. Payback is relatively fast and the systems are as affordable as home theaters. In a few short years the homeowner will be using free hot water without sapping any energy from the grid. On a recent trip to Shanghai I was amazed to look out the hotel window and see blocks of old and sometimes dilapidated homes all with solar hot water systems on the roofs. Again ... what is taking so long in this country?

Apricus Solar is just one of many companies that are focused on Solar Thermal Systems.

 

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