Bruce came up with some of the following trends that he spotted while at the show:
Solar was hurt by the Solyndra debacle:
Yes Solyndra management were perhaps a bit greedy and yes the Obama folks in a rush to portray their administration as Green perhaps could have vetted their investment a bit better BUT Solyndra did make some quality solar that was a bit different from competitors. If anything their materials were too good compared to the cheaper Chinese alternatives.
Since the general public is not that familiar with solar PV they only heard the bad parts about Solyndra(and the FOX channel and far right politicians consistent sniping for political gain only) specifically that they filed bankruptcy and took the Feds for a loss.
This placed a bad mark on all solar....even the solar PV made in China whose cost has dropped dramatically in the past few years allowing for more solar to be installed.
As an editorial it always interests us how oil and gas is glorified and codified in the US fabric even though it is very dangerous, very dirty, forces global strife, global greed, and routinely wrecks our economy. Yes we drive an oil fed auto and use oil based plastics on occasion but what if solar was the mainstream and had the global footprint of oil and gas. Yes Exxon, Shell, and BP would perhaps shrink but other companies would rise so there would perhaps not be any net loss of jobs. Solar is not perfect but it is cleaner, power is always derived at the point of install, and hopefully the sun will be around for at least a few more generations.
Electric Rates are too low to make Solar PV a widely used alternative to traditional grid based power
Just as the Prius has sold marvelously in early 2012 in California due to the high price of gas, Solar PV would sell a lot quicker if the price of electricity was higher. To get the price of electric higher we'd need global demand for basic ingredients of traditional power to be higher than they are currently and sadly that will hurt the aggregate world economy.
Utilities are increasing their use of Solar PV and CSP greatly and were very visible at the Solar World Conference
Bruce said he saw a passel of badges at the show from different utility company reps. This is perhaps the best news from the show. If utility grade electric generation is committing to solar in a larger way then we are finally going in the right direction. Even now coal is competing with the low prices of nat gas and if solar continues to be installed in and around power companies in this country our supply of power will be more variegated. This will lead to fewer middle Eastern conflicts and more jobs in the USA and happier Americans.
Utilities have problems blending the PV into the grid due to unpredictability caused by cloud
cover and other uncertainties
But blending solar into the fabric of the grid can be difficult for the utilities if even from small things like the presence of cloud cover which is impossible to predict months out and can reduce solar output by as much as 20%. Yes you can say it will probably rain in Florida in the early afternoon in August but can you accurately predict to the day when a cold front will come thru bringing a cloud bank that will diminish the production of solar? Nope
There was much talk about storage
Bruce said the phenomenon of storage was a big topic at the show.
Again a reliability problem is that like it or not solar is only good for the 10-12 hours of daylight so energy created in the day needs to be stored at night to have consistent 24 hour delivery.
Molten salt has shown good storage capacity for CSP Concentrated Solar Power facilities. Here's a spot from wikipedia:
Most practical active solar heating systems have storage for a few hours to a day's worth of energy collected. There are also a small but growing number of seasonal thermal stores, used to store summer energy for space heating during winter. Molten salt is now in use as a means to retain a high temperature thermal store, in conjunction with concentrated solar power for later use in electricity generation, to allow solar power to provide electricity on a continuous basis, as base loadPotassium nitrate, Calcium nitrate, Sodium nitrate, Lithium nitrate, etc.) have the property to absorb and store the heat energy that is released to the water, to transfer energy when needed. To improve the salt properties it must be mixed in a eutectic mixture. energy. These molten salts (
Thin film is not as sexy as it once was
Bruce said that thin film solar was not as hot a topic as in the past. It has proven to be higher priced and not as effective but it still may have it's place in smaller applications.
Solar and the smart Grid
The Smart Grid may actually help the integration of solar PV and CSP into the grid.
Here's a great article that discusses how utilities have problems with solar and predicting load output and how the smart grid should help due to it's ability to track micro demand changes
Utilities don't like net metering
Since the aim of every home based solar installation is to sell power back to their utility it may be concerning to hear that many utilities find home based power a bit of a pain.
Here's an article that speaks to this
There was discussion on solar optimizers-here's an article
Microinverters offer diagnostics
The rise of micro inverters has been a great boon to solar return on investment-here's an article
Solar Power International Moves to Chicago in 2013
Conservastore feels alternate energy should become mainstream energy-sounds like this Solar World was a step toward that goal with the interest of the commercial and community owned utilities showing up in record numbers