Solar Power International 2019 round-up

September means one thing in the solar industry: Solar Power International (SPI). EnergySage sent a team to this year’s version of the industry’s largest trade show in Salt Lake City, where we reconnected with old partners, met many new ones, checked in on the last year of evolution on solar, and learned about where the industry is headed over the coming quarters or even years. Here are our primary takeaways from the show.

Solar panel manufacturers continue to iterate and improve

Every year, solar panel manufacturers are pushing the envelope forward, redefining what is possible with a single solar panel. The crown for most efficient solar panel continues to switch hands, and more and more equipment participants are introducing high quality, lower-cost solar products. The number of manufacturers iterating and innovating to move the industry forward is truly impressive. 

What’s more, this validates a primary finding from our most recent Solar Marketplace Intel Report, which found that over 70% of solar shoppers on EnergySage install the highest quality solar equipment they are quoted. 

Many of the products on display at SPI were prototypes of soon-to-be-released products, so be sure to keep an eye on our news feed for updates and announcements when those panels are available to homeowners throughout the country.

Move over, solar

At the same time, SPI is no longer limited to talking just about solar. In fact, the conference is being rebranded to North American Smart Energy Week, recognizing the fact that more products and services are being integrated into the conference. The exhibit hall floor feels larger than ever with a greater diversity of technologies displayed than in years past. From energy storage technologies to electric vehicle chargers to home automation to consumption monitoring, the list of products exhibited at SPI keeps expanding. 

This fits with the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) branding of the 2020s as the “Solar+ Decade”. As the solar industry continues to expand to produce a greater share of the country’s electricity, and as residential solar moves increasingly into the mainstream, there will necessarily be a suite of solar-adjacent technologies and products that will enable and promote the continued growth of the industry. 

Everyone wants a piece of the storage market

According to the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA), the residential energy storage market grew by 500% (!!) from 2017 to 2018. At SPI this year, it was clear that major solar equipment manufacturers took notice. It seemed every solar panel and solar inverter manufacturer introduced or upgraded their energy storage offering. For instance, both Sunpower and Panasonic introduced residential energy storage systems for the first time at SPI. As a result, it’s increasingly possible to have fully integrated solar plus storage systems that are produced by the same manufacturer. And with the cost of energy storage declining by over 70 percent for lithium-ion batteries since 2013, and plenty of federal, state, and utility incentives for storage, it’s clear that the residential energy storage market will continue to increase in the coming years.

Optimism and energy for the future of solar in the US

The most impressive statistic from SPI is that 1 out of every 4 citizens in the US lives in a state with a 100 percent renewable energy law. At present, the percentage of the country’s electrical mix that comes from solar is in the single digits, meaning there is plenty of room for growth. As solar grows from the single digits to over 20 percent of the country’s electrical mix by 2030 (as is SEIA’s goal), there will necessarily be a boom in solar jobs in every state. 

As a result of these targets and this significant growth forecast for the industry, there was a palpable energy and optimism at this year’s SPI. Yes, many of the companies presenting or in attendance are currently competing directly with each other for business, but as the industry continues to expand, there’s room for many of these competitors to be very successful. 

Additionally, while many manufacturers made a commitment to producing solar panels in the US following the tariffs on imported solar panels, this year many manufacturers were displaying products designed, assembled and manufactured here. Hanwha Q Cells recently opened a manufacturing facility in Georgia, LG Solar recently cut the ribbon on their Alabama facility, Silfab increased output at the former Itek facilities they purchased in Washington state, and Jinko Solar exhibited their new Eagle series that is manufactured in America.

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