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SPI Preview - What to Look For...


  09:54:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 641 words  
Categories: Ranting, SPI 2013

SPI Preview - What to Look For...

SPI 2013 logoSolar Power International - the largest solar trade show in the U.S. - kicks off next week in Chicago. Here are the top five things to look for at the show.

1 - Venue Verdict

Continuing its (in our view unfortunate) three-year odyssey away from California, SPI 2013 is in Chicago this year for the first time ever.  Wait, what?  Chicago?

This isn’t a wind-turbine convention - you know, Chicago, the “windy city” - this is the show for Solar.  What is it doing in Chicago?  (Hey - no knock on Chi-town, we’ve had some great times there and the people are terrific, but when you think of solar you do not think of Chicago.)

So the question is - will this sortie into the Midwest help or hurt attendance?  We are guessing the latter, but it will be interesting to see what the numbers say.  (And you know that we love us some data!)

2 - Who’s Missing?

Given the location, and the recent trend of some bigger players taking a pass on big booths, who will be the notable “no-shows” at this year’s event (besides us, that is).  Enphase won’t have a booth, but their presence will be felt as they host a plethora of parties and other events during the show.  Interestingly, rumor has it that SMA will also not have a booth - hard to picture the SMA folks partying like their rivals at Enphase but I suppose it could happen.  (Pictures, please!)

But who else gives the exhibit floor a pass?  And better question - why?

3 - Who’s Got the Buzz?

Buzz is sorta the point of having a booth and LG Electronics - poised to have the first shipments of its long-awaited 300-Watt modules hit U.S. shores in the weeks immediately following the show (and yes, we are in that queue, thank you Focused Energy) is going to have a major booth.   Will they capture the buzz?

With neither SMA nor Enphase fronting a booth, who will capture attention in the inverter space?  At Intersolar the robots seemed to have gotten a lot of interest - will they be prowling the floor?

What about on the racking front - always lots of products and manufacturers out there - but not much buzz.  (Except, perhaps, when a major product is phased out.)  Can anyone break through the noise and clutter to make an impression worthy of the booth fees?

And what about the storage sector - will we see more folks now getting it, like Stem?  Or will it be more of the same fumbling to find a rationale for their product offering that has been typical in the past?

4 - Can the Solar Women Steal the Show?

One of solar’s best kept secrets is that there are lots of intelligent, professional women in the industry - will they finally be seen as the force that they need to be at SPI?  We know that our friends Raina Russo and Glenna Wiseman will be there promoting their survey of women’s attitudes about solar marketing.  What other events will feature women prominently in ways that capitalize on their intellectual contributions to the industry?

5 - Will SPI Police the Bad Boys of Solar?

After Intersolar’s debacle with RECOM and its ilk demonstrating that they had no sense beyond that of inebriated frat boys, tremendous pressure was put on the management of SPI to crack down on unseemly displays on the exhibit floor.  How well will that be enforced?  And how will RECOM’s recent effort to recast itself play with the women at the show?  (Interestingly, as to that last point, comments we have received from women are supportive and grateful for our taking a stand whereas those from men are more along the lines of “why are you talking about this?")

So that’s it - a few things to keep in mind as you pack your bags for Chicago - have a swell time and think about us slaving away back home!



Comment from:
In terms of the “why Chicago” question. This is a thing a lot of folks have been talking about since it was announced- and it’s important to keep 2 things in mind. 1) SPI is a political tool. The Governor of Illinois and the Mayor of Chicago along with a host of other politicians will visit the conference and see the strength of the solar industry. Bringing it to different cities helps increase the overall political support and action for solar. Plus it educates a deep bench of political figures in an area. 2) There are a ton of solar-related manufacturers in the Midwest. The fastest way to grow the solar industry’s clout and political power is to expand our tent and bring in a lot more solar-related companies. SEIA just did a big report about top brands that use solar- if those companies became SEIA members or political influence will grow a lot faster. Here’s a map of solar companies in the Chicago area> https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151603934021324&set=a.10150311342766324.334182.96055281323&type=1
10/18/13 @ 11:27
Comment from: Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO
Hi Carter - Those are both good points. However, the exhibit floor is really directed toward installers and having the show outside of the largest solar market in the country for three years means that those installers aren’t seeing what those exhibitors have to offer. I suspect that is why the number of exhibitors is off whereas it grew every year that it was in the “Sunshine State"! But I’m all for anything that improves our political clout! Have fun! Jim
10/18/13 @ 11:40
Comment from:
Jim - thanks for posting this blog. Now that SPI has come to a close, I’d love to see a response (based on what you’ve heard since you couldn’t make it) about how it measured up in the areas you highlighted. I am of course biased, but all of the feedback I’ve heard has been extremely positive, with many people commenting that this was the best SPI since 2010 for a whole variety of reasons.
11/03/13 @ 02:56
Comment from: Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO
Hi Julia - I feel a bit awkward making a post based on a conference I wasn’t able to attend - much easier to do a preview than a review of same - but maybe what I can do is go down the same set of points and add my thoughts and links to some of the fine summaries by folks like Tom Cheyney and others. Cheers… Jim ps - glad to see that you read the blog!
11/03/13 @ 07:11
Comment from:
Hi Jim: Noticed Julia Hamm asked for feedback on the show. I attended and have talked with several folks post event. The consensus is the show was very productive for those attending. I for one was very pleased to see all the data points around empowering women with the industry and a call for more diversity. The general session on Tuesday morning which featured industry solar installation, utility and regulator representatives “switching hats” and speaking from each other’s point of view was one of the best sessions I’ve attended in 5 SPI’s. Keep up the great work covering the industry, Jim!
11/04/13 @ 15:42
Comment from: Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO
Glenna - Thanks for the kind words. Of course, a major reason that the “empowering women” meme was so powerful at SPI is attributable to you, and Raina - and certainly Julia who has been walking the walk for a long time now. It is a great trend and I hope the hallways are filled with “powerful” women at SPI next year! (And wild horses will be needed to keep me away!) Jim
11/04/13 @ 15:48

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Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
Run on Sun also offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities, and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

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