Solar Power 2006 Conference Bursting with Energy

I spent 3 days at the Solar Power 2006 Conference in San Jose this week. It was literally bursting with energy, with the organizers announcing 4,000 pre registrations and 2,000 more walk-ups.

A few interesting tidbits of note from under the radar:

I had several discussions with executives stating that they felt module inventories were rising, and that module manufacturers may be feeling the pressure to move product shortly (further confirmation that the silicon shortage /module shortage may be close to over), see our recent blog.

I had a number of discussions indicating that the silicon shortage had seriously squeezed a number of large module manufacturers and integrators who had not locked in supply – perhaps a lot more than I would have expected. It will be interesting to see what a silicon oversupply will do.

Possibly as a reaction to the supply chain dynamics, I heard the first widespread discussions to come to my attention regarding potential M&A activity in the PV integrator sector. The rumour mill was rife with whispers that integrators of varying sizes are on the block, including a number of brand names. The question previously had been, when are we going to see consolidation in the PV integrator sector. The new question that was put to me at the conference was this, if so many integrators are interested in selling out now, do they know something that we don’t about near term market prospects?

Chinese manufacturers, including Yingli and Suntech, were out in force. And manufacturers of varying components in China are making themselves felt in the industry.

Interesting note, very few of the best capitalized thin film developers were there in force, and (notably absent from the exhibit hall were First Solar (CdTe), Miasole (CIS), Nanosolar (CIS), Iowa Thin Film (ASi), Ascent Power (CIS), DayStar (CIS)), and the ones that did (like Uni Solar/Ovonics (ASi), Global Solar (CIS), had relatively small booths/presence). That generally would mean they are either struggling, or (as probably the case in First Solar with its upcoming IPO), unable to speak yet about upcoming news.

The solar thermal industry, while not making the largest splash at the conference, is maturing much faster than I had realized. Evidenced by the recent launch of the Schott Solar’s thermal receiver plant (capable of producing 100 + MW/year of receivers), thanks to Dr. Nikolaus Benz and Dr. Alex Marker for the teach-in on solar thermal.

A few products companies, most notably Carmanah, with their Solar LED Lights were displaying some fascinating advances. See our previous blog on their new aviation lighting product.

And I did have an opportunity to visit with one of the PV concentrator startups that was recently funded (Nth Power and Rockport Capital), and have a look at their prototype, Practical Instruments.

7 replies
  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I wouldn’t take a lack of thin film presence as a sign of struggle. Would Nanosolar really get 100 million for a marginal idea? I’d bet they just don’t have much to show now, instead focusing on getting their manufacturing in order. Once they have product, that’ll speak for itself.Matt

  2. Sass Peress
    Sass Peress says:

    Neal,Let's think about the "purpose" of an exhibition..it's to show potential customers your wares. So the question begs…if I have a solar panel to power your house, where do customers looking for "home building materials" go? To a "solar" show, or a "home" show?It's therefore possible that we are seeing the end of the incestuous nature of the industry where everyone is simply "showing feathers". Companies run by "real" marketers would spend much less time showing their wares to the rest of the industry, and much more time/capital showing their wares to potential clients.With only a handful of integrators, why would anyone need to exhibit at a show like this? While I agree that many early stage companies simply don't want to show how early they are, others like Konarka are beginning to exhibit samples and are on the verge of providing real quantities. So I believe its just a matter of strategy and industry maturing.As for your other comments, bang on again!Sass

  3. Michael Benson
    Michael Benson says:

    As long as you were at the show, did you get a chance to look at Altiair Nano's new Battery technology that recharges in about 8 Min. It looks quite interesting.Any coments would be great.MB

  4. Neal Dikeman
    Neal Dikeman says:

    Anonymous,Certainly possible, but thin film companies also have a history of spending lots of money for mediocre results.Sass,Quite likely. But if I were making modules, and this is a conference full of integrators, I'd be out in force.Michael,I saw the booth, but did not have a chance to look at it, or review the technology.NealYou are probably right to some degree

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