Last week, Likely the biggest solar conference in the world Intersolar Europe took place in Munich, Germany. The event attracted some 66,000 visitors—Clean Energy Authority wasn’t on hand to participate. However, it was on hand for the DOE’s SunShot Grand Challenge Summit and Technology Forum, where Energy Secretary Steven Chu and other solar leaders in the U.S. discussed how to bring down the cost of solar in the U.S. while securing domestic manufacturing and driving innovation. At the same time the Army and Air Force held a panel discussing how the armed forces are moving forward increasing their use of renewables. Basically it was a busy, buzzy week for the industry across the world.
At the SunShot forum Chu discussed among other things, the pressing need for the U.S. to lead in developing new solar technologies as it competes with other nations. He said the country must not just work on new technologies but move them from the lab and into the field. At the forum the DOE announced $8 million in awards to help new technologies new technologies through it’s incubator program and $10 million that will be given in awards through the America’s Most Affordable Rooftop Solar challenge.
Also speaking at the conference was former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter (D), who discussed how state policies can drastically increase renewable energy in very short time. Ritter explained how Colorado’s policies have led the state to lead the nation in solar jobs per capita over the past few years. He stated that for policy to really be effective it needs to come from the federal level. Both Chu and Ritter also discussed the need for more innovations on financing models that support solar and renewable energy—which include creating bond and other structures that allow for long-term investments that will hopefully get more people investing in the industry.
These include new ventures and partnerships like that between Denver Wealth Management and The Renewable Energy Initiative. Under their new partnership the two organizations will focus on creating renewable energy retirement funds. The funds, which may be designed around 401 k investment fund models, will invest in solar, wind, electric vehicles and other sustainable businesses.
Meanwhile the U.S. military forces are moving forward with their plans to significantly boost their use of renewable energy, from wind and solar to biofuels. And it’s not because they’re trying to become green. It’s about security. During the joint “Renewable Energy Industry Day” on June 12 the Army and Air Force discussed how they hope to add gigawatts of solar by 2025.
Even as the solar manufacturing side of the industry is facing challenges, the installation side continues to boom. A new report from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research last week showed that the first quarter of 2012 was the busiest first quarter in the U.S. since they started producing the quarterly report “U.S. Solar Market Insight: Q1 2012.” Among other things they found that New Jersey installed more solar photovoltaics in the first quarter than California.
As installers look to reach out to more potential customers, they’re embracing new to the industry methods. Real Goods Solar recently opened a mall kiosk in Clovis, Calif.’s Sierra Vista Mall. The kiosk allows potential customers an opportunity to learn more about solar in a consumer-friendly setting where people already are thinking about spending money.