Those of us from Clean Power Research who attended this year’s Intersolar North America in San Francisco were pleasantly surprised to find a robust show. Although Intersolar is always well planned and executed, drawing the best companies from all over the world, many solar exhibitions have suffered from industry consolidation and shrinking marketing budgets. While it’s true that the number of exhibits and attendees was lower than recent years, the 2013 Intersolar event was vibrant and the attendees energized.

It was interesting to see the trends that we have witnessed all year long—a focus on soft cost reduction, continuation of the net metering debate, and innovation to help utilities and ISOs integrate high penetration PV—continue strong at Intersolar.

On the soft cost front, there were a large number of companies focused on bringing down installation costs. Particularly noteworthy among rack manufacturers was Zep Solar, which continued its string of successes with announcements from Trina and Renesola of new Zep compatible modules. A variety of tools and lifts for speeding the installation process were also on display from other companies.

The net metering debate continued strong at the conference, with PG&E expressing concern about the potential upward pressure on rates from net metering, while solar supporters advocated for inclusion of social benefits in value of solar calculations. While at times contentious, we believe open discussions between industry stakeholders is important to development of policies that will lead to a strong future for everyone—including electricity providers, the solar industry and PV owners.

The concern over integration of high penetration distributed PV sparked the largest growth area of the exhibition: energy storage. Nearly half of the second floor of the Moscone West exhibition hall was dedicated to energy storage, up from a handful of exhibitors two or three years ago. Local Bay Area firm Stem is even jumping on the finance bandwagon and offering leases for their storage systems for large commercial and industrial facilities. As U.S. utilities hit higher and higher penetrations of PV, it’s likely that the focus on accurately forecasting PV and effectively deploying storage to handle ramp rates and intermittency will be an increasing focus of the industry.

We have seen a real consistency in PV industry trends this year, and expect the quest to reduce soft costs, the debate over net metering and meeting the challenge of high penetration PV integration will stretch on for years and not months. We look forward to October and seeing what Solar Power International brings.