By Paul Augustine
The 2015 Solar Power International conference included nearly 15,000 participants, representing 75 countries. Touted as the largest solar power conference in North America, participants from every aspect of the solar power industry—hardware manufacturers, developers, installers, software providers, non-profits, investors, and more—gathered in Anaheim, California for the four-day conference this month. The conference was eventful, starting with record rainfall in Southern California and highlighted by a rousing speech by Vice President, and potential presidential candidate, Joe Biden.
Biden’s remarks centered on the importance of solar energy in fighting climate change and creating new jobs. Biden cited several statistics in his speech, including a 20-fold increase in solar generation and an 86-percent increase in solar-related jobs during the Obama presidency. Biden stressed the moral imperative of addressing climate change and the importance that solar energy plays in that battle. He also announced a new $102 million competitive grant program through the Department of Energy aimed at further driving down the costs of solar over the next decade. He targeted current subsidization of the fossil fuel industry, noting that by taking half of the current $5 billion in annual tax credits for the oil industry and using that to extend the Investment Tax Credit for solar, “solar energy could quadruple by 2022” with money left over to reduce the budget deficit. The Vice President thanked the industry for its leadership in driving innovation to make our country cleaner and more efficient, and driving job creation. He closed on a positive note, stating, “Folks, because of you, we are on the cusp of something huge here.”
Other conference sessions focused on business trends, finance, policy & regulation, storage, system integration & technology, and utility & grid integration. Some of the hottest topics discussed included the future of integrated energy storage and solar, trends in solar financing with greater access to low cost capital, and community solar. Another topic of great interest was the expiry of the 30-percent Investment Tax Credit at the end of next year.
Overall, optimism in the industry abounded, with new technologies driving down costs and creating a more viable alternative to conventional energy sources and strong growth projected in the coming years.