By Wes Doane, Events Manager, Intersolar North America
The solar industry is growing, especially here in North America. The United States has now achieved more than two million solar installations and Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables projects whose number double by 2023. As the solar power and storage markets continue to mature, it is important that major industry events follow key trends and grow with them.
In March of this year, Diversified Communications, a global producer of major business-to-business trade shows, acquired Intersolar North America (ISNA) to enter the ever-growing solar power and storage markets. ISNA’s strong reputation and commitment to renewable energy was a natural fit with Diversified Communications’ enthusiasm for solar power (as evidenced by its 1.5 MW solar farm in Brunswick, Maine).
After eight quick years of managing major events in the automation software and renewable energy industry, I have observed several key patterns of maturing industries and how their major events hold together. These trends have much to tell us about the trajectory of the solar and energy storage industries, as well as the increasingly integrated electric mobility technologies – such as electric vehicles, hydrogen and more – that cross them.
As prices drop across the board on equipment – from panels to inverters to O&M software – solar and energy storage companies will have to continue to innovate or move into more profitable areas and sell off. existing portfolios.
Wood Mackenzie published a report indicating that the total revenue of the top 5 PV inverter vendors saw a 10% year-on-year decline in 2018. To combat price pressure, many inverter companies are integrating new technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT) platforms in their core products and overall growth strategy. Others leave the inverter industry entirely to focus on more profitable businesses.
Trade shows offer industry players the opportunity to literally converge. As industries mature and consolidation occurs, event organizers need to be nimble to stay competitive. They must continue to find new strategic partners to strengthen their show and provide continuous innovation, turning to exhibitors for new content. Event organizers should focus on providing high-quality educational programming and developing creative opportunities to showcase products and services to help connect attendees and exhibitors. A good example is ISNA’s push for its February 2020 event: a new quality-focused contractor installation competition live on the show floor.
Patterns from other maturing industries tell us that solar and storage companies will continue to innovate to differentiate themselves, stay relevant, and accelerate the industry. Companies are find new ways to streamline production through automation, optimize technologies through artificial intelligence, leverage new software to strengthen installation processes, and use blockchain to solve the critical challenges that come with a rapidly changing power grid.
The increase in solar deployment has already created opportunities for energy storage to solve peak generation problems; as a result, we see storage making its way into business strategies for long-term growth. Indeed, it is becoming increasingly rare to find a solar developer who is not including storage in its list of services.
Likewise, with a transforming grid and the move towards mass electrification also comes the massive integration of grid-connected devices. In addition to energy storage, solar companies are looking for ways to expand into the electric vehicle space and are designing services that integrate with electric vehicle technology and infrastructure.
Trade shows should reflect these industry changes in their educational programming and exhibit space. For example, ISNA 2020 will have an increased conference lineup around e-mobility technologies, with topics focused on energy storage, electric vehicles, hydrogen, IoT, software and more. There is also a dedicated space in the ISNA 2020 exhibit hall for emerging solar, energy storage and electric mobility startups. Competitive pricing allows businesses without a large event budget to showcase their products and services to generate brand awareness and connect with the industry leaders and professional business partners that matter most.
Like other industries, the integration of solar, storage and related technologies into the mainstream is largely driven by increased business adoption. Stakeholders are now requiring that businesses take sustainability planning seriously; as a result, companies such as Apple, Facebook and Google are setting and meeting serious renewable energy supply targets. Traditional financiers are also looking to get involved even earlier stages of the project development cycle. Trade shows need to be aware of these expanding attendee markets and develop marketing programs that bring this audience to exhibitors – something Diversified Communications accomplishes because of its event experience and continuous innovation.
Increasingly, the residential market is finding ways to integrate consumer adoption of solar power and energy storage. to integrate. With pushes from policies such as California’s SB 100 and support from a booming solar insurance market, consumers are not only becoming more tech-savvy, but are enjoying more choice than ever before.
Accelerating adoption also means a growing workforce in solar and energy storage. Despite slight declines in recent years, the Solar Foundation continues to show long-term growth, naming the solar industry one of fastest growing employment sectors in the United States. Now more than ever, it’s important for the growing solar and storage workforce – with support and opportunities from organizations like IREC and WRISE – to develop skills and keep up to date with the latest technologies.
ISNA is responding to this trend by partnering in San Diego with organizations such as the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). New for 2020, eligible PV professionals have the opportunity to take NABCEP-approved continuing education courses and earn up to nine Continuing Education Units (CEUs) that they can use toward certification and training requirements. board recertification.
#ISNA2020 and beyond
Looking at patterns in other maturing industries helps explain what we can expect to see in solar and energy storage over the next five to 10 years.
Building on Diversified Communications’ 70 years of trade show and event experience, ISNA 2020 strives to support and accelerate the growth of the solar power and storage market by:
- Keep abreast of industry trends;
- Develop a conference program that supports growth with a greater focus on technologies (energy storage and electric mobility);
- Provide targeted and specialized professional development opportunities (NABCEP workshops);
- Search for the best experts in the industry to lead conference sessions; and
- Fill its exhibition floor with state-of-the-art products and services.
We hope you will join us at Intersolar North America in February in San Diego!