San Francisco once again played host to the Intersolar North America conference in July. For industry veterans, this year’s event was familiar: crowded registration lines, bumping into old friends and a busy exhibition floor. On the other hand, this year’s hot topics—the solar investment tax credit (ITC) expiration, solar plus storage (solar + storage) and snow—were decidedly new, and indicative of the industry’s ongoing and rapid evolution.
ITC expiration remains a hot topic
There was much buzz, conversation and opining about the impending expiration of the ITC at the end of 2016. There were even signature collectors in the lobby scanning badges to petition state legislatures to extend the ITC.
Although the buzz was high, most people we spoke with were not overly concerned with its impact. In fact, some seemed to welcome the ITC expiration, saying the industry is ready from an economic standpoint, and that it will spur further innovation.
In any event, we expect 2016 to be a year of furious activity as the fate of the ITC is decided. We’re preparing for growth as we help utilities gear-up to handle higher volumes of incentive and interconnection applications than ever with PowerClerk®.
On the research side, we’re coming up with new ways to calculate the value of combining energy technologies such as solar, electric vehicles, thermal heat-pumps and energy efficiency. The aim is to give homeowners new insight into how they can more effectively use energy in their daily lives. As we described in a packed conference session at Intersolar, combining technologies makes the case for solar even stronger—even without the ITC or other incentives.
Storage steps into the spotlight
Another highlight this year was the storage industry stepping into a position of prominence, with a host of storage technology and service providers exhibiting in their own section of the show floor. The industry seems to have collectively decided to think about storage applications in the overall energy-mix, and it was interesting to see the technology move to the forefront of the conversation.
This included plenty of conversation around how to analyze the economic benefits of solar + storage. This is a topic that our Consulting team is also tackling, with the recent publication of a new methodology for performing a hybrid solar solar + storage valuation study for systems in Hawaii with the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc. (IREC).
The Tesla Powerwall, however, stole the storage show. The verdict was that it looked like a cool mix of a Tesla Model S and an iPhone.
The “solar vortex”
In nearly every conversation we’ve had this year (granted that is a biased sample considering we’re in the weather data business), accounting for the impact of snow on system performance has been a top-of-mind concern. The combined snow impact on system and fleet performance over the last two harsh Northeast winters has made gathering intelligence and building analytics to understand this issue a primary goal for many of the companies we met with during the week.
Fortunately, the latest version of our SolarAnywhere® satellite irradiance model has added intelligence to help the solar industry understand snow impact. We now deliver more accurate data that can identify snow cover on the ground, as well as data measuring precipitation (both solid and liquid, separately). We can’t wait to help our partners gain insight into this problem, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
See you next year at Intersolar
It was a fruitful and busy trip for the Clean Power Research team, but it felt great to be back in Intersolar’s high energy environment surrounded by colleagues who are equally obsessed with the spread of renewable energy. We’ll see you in San Francisco in 2016.