Every year, players in the solar ecosystem get together at the Solar Power International (SPI) show hosted by SEIA and SEPA. It is always a very exciting week to be in the middle of a group of highly-motivated people driving a rapidly growing industry. The entrepreneurial spirit is palatable and the optimism contagious. You can’t help but feel energized after attending the sessions and networking at this show.
This year’s schedule appears to have an increased focus on emerging technologies and international markets. On the emerging technologies front, new technology developments in the area of distributed energy resources, like energy storage and evolving business models like community solar appear poised to change the business case for solar, further opening up PV penetration in the U.S. and other markets.
While many agree that there is still work to be done before widespread deployment, advances in energy storage will be very interesting to explore at SPI. At the show, there are multiple sessions on how linking solar and storage can change both the customer business case, as well as the potential value to utilities in working with solar owners to manage power quality and grid reliability. Most believe that this technology has a few years to go to make the business case work, but it is shows like SPI where you start to see the pieces coming together.
In addition to new technologies, business model innovations are also on display at SPI. Community solar, in particular, offers some very interesting wrinkles in the residential solar market that has been mostly focused on rooftop systems to date. This shared investment model opens up access to new customers, like renters. Barriers related to policy, finance and IT/OT impact exist, but this opportunity will undoubtedly be a hot topic at the show.
Community solar has the potential to greatly accelerate the overall penetration of solar deployments, and offers an interesting new avenue for utilities to explore in terms of managing solar deployments on their grids. Over the last 12 months, the industry has seen an increase in the number of utilities actively promoting solar beyond utility-scale, and the potential value in terms of customer experience or new service offerings that smaller scale deployments offer. With all of the new developments in the space that will be on display at SPI, it will be very interesting to see how utilities continue to respond.
Please stop by and see us at the West Monroe Partners booth #6834. We will be discussing topics related to innovative business models, interconnection challenges and the future of the grid as solar continues to grow. We would welcome the opportunity to engage in a dialogue related to the current and future state of the solar industry.