This year’s GTM Solar Software Summit (S3) and GTM Solar Summit (GTMSS), which take place May 10-12 at the Omni Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Montelucia in Paradise Valley, Arizona USA. Image: GTM

This year’s GTM Solar Software Summit (S3) and GTM Solar Summit (GTMSS), which take place May 10-12 at the Omni Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Montelucia in Paradise Valley, Arizona USA. Image: GTM

My spring solar industry calendar would be incomplete without Greentech Media’s Solar Summit. I would be bereft if I didn’t have my annual download of data/analysis, opinionated banter, large personalities, industry gossip, and networking (also known as schmoozing and boozing). 

I’ve attended all but one of the previous eight events, watching the conference grow in size in rough proportion to the burgeoning growth of the industry—and now industries (hello storage, hello grid edge!)—it serves. I’ve seen the subject matter drift from a more upstream technology and manufacturing bent downstream to a development, EPC, and systems focus, with healthy doses of financial, policy and, of course, global market reports from GTM’s also-burgeoning research group.

This year’s summit is preceded by another summit on May 10—the inaugural GTM Solar Software Summit (S3). In case you haven’t noticed, the proliferation and improvement of software throughout the solar value chain has been one of the most profound trends of the past few years. 

“We see software as an immense opportunity, not just as a growing business sector, but as a way to tangibly reduce ‘soft costs,’” GTM Research’s MJ Shiao explained in an email. “The sessions are geared toward both software users trying to learn best practices and applications as well as software vendors for learning what the industry needs.” 

“Similar to the Solar Summit, our morning sessions will take a broad view on the solar software industry via Jake Saper from Emergence Capital and follow that up with roundtable discussions with large solar software users on the opportunities and pains they see,” GTM’s research director said. “Throughout the afternoon, we'll walk through the value chain piece-by-piece. Two big related themes I expect to see are the ‘build vs. buy’ decision and whether the industry needs a full-suite solution or can thrive on an integrated ecosystem of point solutions (or where that compromise rests).”  

After squeezing the algorithms and software jargon out of my brain, the main event kicks off the morning of May 11 with former wunderkind Shayle Kann’s annual state of the industry address. This year, GTM Research’s senior VP muses about the global solar future. In addition to Shayle’s sonata, many opportunities for prognostication, forecasts and predictions pepper the agenda, with panels and talks on the next decade in solar (it’s gonna rock), the next big technological innovation (it’s in stealth mode), the future of solar power electronics (smart and smarter), next-generation PV module technology (AC mods with nanotech), and the future of utility solar procurement (billions and billions of dollars’ worth). 

I defer to GTM’s MJ again for his perspective on this year’s summit. “For technology, we'll see a continuation of the general theme of targeting lower costs and better performance—especially through balance of systems innovations. We'll kick off with a great session in the morning featuring First Solar, DOE Sunshot, GE Ventures and Varun Sivaram from the Council on Foreign Relations—all of whom have been looking intently at PV tech innovations across the value chain. We'll take a long and broad view of technology innovation, including asking whether c-Si will remain dominant, and whether there are still broadly disruptive BOS innovations on the table.” 

“One particular question that interests me is what the next bid industry cost target should be. Sunshot's $1/watt goal is within reach, so what does that mean for the next target? And should the industry adopt the $0.25/W target that Shayle and Varun set out in their recent article in Nature?” he asks.

“In our afternoon track on inverters and BOS, expect the panelists to accept things like 1500 V systems as a foregone conclusion and look to what's next. Hot topics will include decentralization of power electronics (e.g., string inverters) and of structures (e.g., distributed tracking) in the utility space, dealing with new regulations (e.g., rapid shutdown, Rule 21 communications) and energy storage integration. 

“For our ‘Roundtable: The Evolution of PV Systems’ session, I'm especially excited to hear First Solar elaborate on the MVDC with in-array DC optimization architecture it presented on its analyst day—and see if that contrasts with the push for string inverters in larger utility projects being pushed by inverter vendors,” MJ adds, getting his solar geek on.

I asked him what some of his favorite moments might be from previous summits. He couldn’t pinpoint a “favorite” moment, but noted that he “always appreciates the candor from our panelists. We strive to keep the conversations honest and not shy away from disagreements and controversy. Of course, we don't want catfights on stage but the industry and our audience learn best when we discuss more than safe generalities.” 

As for me, I like the occasional catfight or pissing match. Like the one on the inverter panel a few years back or when the Sunrun guy lit into the Arizona Public Service dude or a certain CEO’s propensity for F-bombs and outspokenness. I hope to see similar fireworks at some point during this year’s event. I look forward to reporting on some of the trends, outliers, unexpected pronouncements and the like at this year’s GTM solar shindig.

Tom Cheyney will report from this year’s GTM Solar Software Summit (S3) and GTM Solar Summit (GTMSS), which take place May 10-12 at the Omni Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Montelucia in Paradise Valley, Arizona USA. 

Tags: pv modules, solar-plus-storage, investment, net metering

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