Whenever I go to a convention or conference, I can’t help but admire the collection of business cards and marvel at the number of connections made during the event. That was just the case as I came home from Las Vegas and my first time at Solar Power International (SPI). The connections I made ranged from solar panel manufacturers, construction firms and physical security groups, as well as a UAV group. The breadth of companies in attendance at a solar show was astounding.
Regardless of your position on renewable energy, one thing you can appreciate is how the renewable industry is driving technology in the utility space. This ongoing innovation is forcing a response and a discussion by utilities to constantly evaluate what a utility looks like, can look like and will look like in the future.
For me, the most impressive part of SPI was the number of diverse vendors attending the event. I can’t recall how many racking system installation presentations I watched, but I do know that I couldn’t help but watch each and every one. Like any well-choreographed presentation, the presenters made it seem impossible that there could be any trouble installing a roof-top solar system. It looked almost as easy as my contractor taping and texturing the walls of my house. Both are skilled workers who, when watched executing their craft, give you the impression that it would be a no-hassle install.
Given the number of diverse businesses at the convention, the economic impact and opportunity the renewable industry has provided to ambitious entrepreneurs cannot be ignored. Even though there is a PTC for wind and an ITC for solar to help foster developer initiatives, there are a number of support companies that developed successful business plans to support the renewable industry. They’ve now taken their products and services to a wider audience, expanding their offerings into other spaces of the power industry.
So, it comes back to our connections during events like SPI, where the conversations have centered on renewables technology. That in turn is forcing sometimes uncomfortable conversations of behalf of the utilities. But the centerpiece of those conversations is how these developing technologies have also spawned new and expanded solutions that were once provided to only a few. That benefits all areas of the power industry.