Thursday, October 20, 2011

Solar Power International 2011

Solar Power International 2011 (SPI '11), took place at the Dallas Convention Center between October 17th and 20th. SPI '11 is the premier business-to-business global solar conference and expo, it involved 1,200 international and US exhibitors sprawled across 1.1 million gross square feet. More than 21,000 professionals representing 125+ countries came to the annual showcase, described as "the epicenter" for all that is new in solar. SPI '11 included general sessions and interviews with leading solar executives.

Who Attended

SPI events are designed for any professional who needs to stay in step with the solar industry, that includes:
  • Engineering firms
  • Architects
  • Builders and developers
  • Installers and contractors
  • Manufacturers
  • Distributors
  • Utilities
  • Government representatives and policymakers
  • Investors and financiers
  • Entrepreneurs 

Solar Power International 2011's Conference Program featured the most current information for professionals planning solar projects around the world. Sessions were organized along 6 tracks: Finance, Integration, Markets, Policy, System Design and Technology.

General Sessions took a fresh look at the shape of the industry. Renowned CEOs, policy analysts, finance experts and other thought leaders offered new perspectives on the forces shaping the solar energy industry.

Julia Hamm, President and CEO of the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA), took the audience 20 years into the future during the General Session with a visionary presentation about the role of solar energy within an electric utility in the year 2031.

The Utility Executives Roundtable reviewed independent forecasts indicating that the solar industry will continue to grow faster than almost any other industry in the Unites States, the role of electric utilities will increase concurrently. Thought-leaders from the investor-owned and municipal utility sectors in an engaging discussion about the unique business opportunities and technical, regulatory, and business challenges that utilities face in their efforts to increase the percentage of their portfolio that comes from solar energy. Panelists:
  • Doyle Beneby, President & Chief Executive Officer, CPS Energy
  • Randy Mehrberg, President & Chief Operating Officer, PSEG Energy Holdings LLC; Executive Vice President Strategy & Development, PSEG Services Corporation
  • Armando Olivera, President & Chief Executive Officer, Florida Power & Light Company
  • Robert Powers, President, AEP Utilities
  • James Rogers, Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer, Duke Energy
  • Larry Weis, General Manager, Austin Energy
Finance strategies and policy changes are important topics for this industry and SRECs, FITs, RAMS, PPAs and tax equity options are just some of the key strategic market drivers. This session addressed the latest news on congressional debates and regulatory policy initiatives, and how these affect solar, from experts who work "inside the Washington beltway."

Technology not only focused on PV, CSP, CPV and commercialization. New approaches to squeezing more juice out of the same modules are emerging every day, and participants learned about the latest in power electronics, including micro-inverters, central inverters and power optimizers.

On the morning of Thursday, October 20th session titled Solar Trade Issues: The implications of the October 19th Trade Complaint Filed with the U.S. International Trade Commission. The session addressed breaking news including the allegation that Chinese solar companies are violating international trade rules. The session addressed the background of the trade complaint filed today with the U.S. International Trade Commission by seven US solar manufacturers. This session was presented by John Smirnow, V.P. Trade and Competitiveness, SEIA, Washington, D.C. and Jeffrey M. Telep, Partner, King & Spalding, Washington, D.C.


Workshops provided an excellent opportunity to dig into the subject matter of your choice. Monday's Pre-Conference Workshop prepared industry newcomers for the more focused Concurrent Sessions on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Pre- and Post-Conference courses provided hands-on, how-to skill-building exercises for experienced industry professionals.

Solar Idea Swaps

Solar Idea Swaps were back for SPI '11 with six totally interactive sessions designed to allow for small-scale networking and discussion. Each hour-long session was facilitated by an industry subject expert, creating the opportunity for engaging group conversation.

Hot topics included:
  • codes and standards
  • patent challenges
  • off grid systems
  • career seeking in the solar industry
  • new financing options for residential systems
  • potential for market growth beyond North America

In a speech titled "Find Your Edge: Win at Work," author, researcher, business consultant and motivational speaker, Marcus Buckingham. In this speech Buckingham reviewed how excellence happens all the time in an organization, however, it can be tricky to harness this excellence and make it work for you. So often, when companies try to reproduce what their best performers do differently, the result is just another lifeless policy that ends up constraining people instead of freeing them to do their best work. The trick is to help people put innovative ideas into practice without stifling the personal strengths that give them their edge. In this speech Marcus presented a customized best practice delivery system for both managers and employees. Using a simple, easy-to-remember scheme to identify each person’s unique combination of strengths, Marcus gave individuals tips and techniques on how to put their particular edge to use. And managers got lots of raw material to be better coaches based on the specific strengths of their team members. Buckingham showed how to move beyond the one-size-fits-all approach and find those practices that are best for you.


There was also a conversation with David Robinson moderated by Steve Kerr. David Robinson is an NBA Hall of Fame Legend, former San Antonio Spurs center and a three-time Olympian. He shared his insights on championship and leadership with Steve Kerr, his former teammate.

Challenges in Texas

SPI addressed the unique challenges of the growing market opportunity in Texas, with targeted sessions that cover a range of topics, including:
  • user's guide to Texas' electric utility structure and regulation
  • utility-scale solar—pioneering projects and negotiating the trail ahead
  • challenges and opportunities with distributed solar generation

© 2011, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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