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COSEIA all set for 2012 Solar Power Colorado conference and expoOn Feb. 09, Colorado’s solar industry puts all its chips on the table.

The 2012 Solar Power Colorado conference and expo, hosted by the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association, gets underway next week at the Embassy Suites Conference Center in Loveland, Colo. And there are a few notable changes from last year’s event, which had sold out nearly a week before the doors opened.

First, CEO of Solar Energy Industries Association Rhone Resch will join three other industry heavy hitters—Paula Mints, Navigant's principal solar analyst; Travis Bradford, author of the book Solar Revolution; and national policy expert Adam Browning, executive director of the Vote Solar Initiative—for the “State of the Industry” panel, taking place from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., Thursday, Feb. 09.

“We have a huge number of solar leaders who are flying in to go to this event,” said Neal Lurie, COSEIA’s executive director. “That’s a huge vote of confidence in the future of the Colorado solar market.”

Another notable difference will be that Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper will deliver the keynote address this year.

“Having Governor Hickenlooper participate in Solar Power Colorado reinforces his commitment to the state’s solar sector,” said Neal. “We have seen a huge amount of interest in collaborating with local governments to help streamline permit processes and reduce non-hardware costs of going solar.”

In fact, Hickenlooper signed a bill which limited solar permitting fees in the state last July.

The final and maybe most interesting changes to this year’s event are that COSEIA decided to shorten the conference and expo from three days down to two—oh, and there will be gambling.

That’s not a typo.

So why only two days?

“We regained out sanity,” joked Lurie. “Putting together a major conference requires a significant amount of coordination. We’d rather be able to pack in a huge number of fun activities over two days.”

And one of those activities is a casino/networking night.

If you’ve ever been to a trade conference, there is normally some type of networking event. You grab a few drinks, and look for people you know, talk to them, and stare at the strangers around you, who are staring right back.

“It can be hard for professionals to come into a room and meet,” said Lurie. “Playing blackjack or poker can really break the ice.”

In addition to Colorado solar installers, developers, financiers and energy leaders, there will be another group holding their cards close to their chests at the casino night.

“We’ve also seen a huge interest from outside organizations,” said Lurie. “A broad range of solar businesses who haven’t been involved in COSEIA in the past are participating—Trina Solar, Jinko—companies that weren’t here last year. There’s a continued interest in the Colorado marketplace.”

And there should be.

Per capita, Colorado has more solar jobs than any other state. It recently was awarded a DOE grant for solar projects. It’s the home of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and COSEIA has been working its butt off.

Last year, the organization set up an event that connected solar developers and financiers and completed the Solar Thermal Roadmap, which outlined how the state can be a leader in the emerging technology.

So what will 2012 bring to the Colorado solar market?

You’ll find out next week.

Solar Power Colorado is open to the public, and as of this writing, there is still room available. You can register at www.coseia.org.