Intersolar 2019: A first-timer’s takeaways

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Reddit
Email
A free-market era will bring growth but not certainty of subsidies, Intersolar speakers pointed out (Credit: PV Tech)

Years covering trade events cannot prepare a journalist for what Intersolar is.

Reading the hard numbers beforehand – 1,450 exhibitors across 106,000 square meters – can mislead the uninitiated into thinking the scale of the annual get-together is fully understood.

Real comprehension, however, only dawns onsite; a realisation, during the first dizzying tour of Messe München, that the Wembley-sized A1 hall that took a half hour to circumnavigate was just one of almost a dozen. 

Intersolar veterans all noted the shift from deserted editions just a few years back but the contrast needed no pointing out. Anyone witnessing the crowds swarming into exhibitor stands last week would have easily known: this is an industry ready to turn the page after the tough past few years.

Certainty is not coming back

When this correspondent first encountered the solar industry in the early 2010s, times were significantly bleaker. At press conferences in Madrid, policymakers announced policy u-turns that would send the sector crashing down into years of paralysis. Whilst highly symbolic, Spain was far from alone in its subsidy clampdown.

The brighter new chapter that followed in the years since – solar’s comeback without the help of subsidies – was written all over last week’s Intersolar. The talk both on- and off-the-record was of the unsubsidised success stories emerging worldwide, including across less-sunny reaches.

The optimism came with a caveat, however: a free-market era may hold promise but it will never bring back the certainty that subsidies once provided. As noted by Neoen’s Bastien Grandet, the same grid parity that props up zero-subsidy solar can pave the way for cannibalisation.

Financing challenges, or so ran the thinking in Munich, will not relent for an industry forced to accept merchant risks where PPA off-takers are absent. Relying today on bullish long-term price projections can – as another panelist learned – entail very real consequences, not least a halving of asset valuations.

The calls for caution may not be new but perhaps were worth repeating at Intersolar, given that some still long for a certainty that will not come back.

“I think people hark back to the old days of subsidies,” remarked Statkraft’s Sean Maguire, whose firm receives requests for 10- to 15-year PPAs that the panellist said can be tough to agree to across many markets.

March of the makers

However numerous, the warnings did not take the shine off a bullish Intersolar Europe 2019.

Approached on the ground, top developer names shared predictions on where global solar will go after approaching the 500GW capacity mark last year. There was talk of the current stars – Spain, Australia and others – but also new contenders, including Bolsonaro’s Brazil, a reviving Italy and Eastern European hotspots including Poland and Ukraine.

The upstream picture was more mixed. The triumphant headlines around Chinese players Huawei, JinkoSolar and Risen Energy – with product launches and awards – contrasted with the question marks over European peers, still grappling with last year’s scrapping of Chinese import tariffs. Many openly wondered whether the sector can be “restarted”, as Fraunhofer ISE has predicted.  

Of all innovations, one seemed particularly adept at stealing the Intersolar spotlight. This correspondent’s personal highlight of three days in Munich was a session on floating solar, which pitted BayWa r.e. and Ocean Sun against other frontrunners. The sheer energy in the packed room, the new-territory feeling of the debate, were impressive to behold.  

Only time will tell whether the bullish mood music of 2019 will continue to dominate Intersolar in years to come. Good or not, however, the change is unstoppable; that perhaps was the clearest takeaway after the week in Munich.

See here for PV Tech’s Intersolar 2019 highlights and here for those from sister publication Energy Storage News.

23 August 2022
Intersolar South America, South America’s largest exhibition and conference for the solar industry, takes place at the Expo Center Norte in São Paulo, Brazil, on August 23–25, 2022, and has a focus on the areas of photovoltaics, PV production and solar thermal technologies. At the accompanying Intersolar South America Conference, renowned experts shed light on hot topics in the solar industry. In 2021 – despite the Covid-19 pandemic – Intersolar South America welcomed more than 28,000 visitors and over 1,000 conference attendees over 3 days. 200+ providers showcased their products. Combining local and international expertise, Intersolar South America brings together the PV and solar thermal sector to discuss the current status and strategic trends for Latin American PV markets, as well as technology innovations and new business opportunities. Overall, distributed generation is still driving momentum in the Brazilian market. Get 10% off with code 38LCF6KN
6 September 2022
Intersolar Mexico sits at the cross-section of photovoltaics, solar heating & cooling technologies, and energy storage. The event serves as the industry’s go-to source for invaluable technology trends and premier B2B contacts in the promising Mexican solar market. From September 6–8, 2022 Intersolar Mexico together with the co-located The GREEN Expo® and Aquatech Mexico will take place in Centro Citibanamex, Mexico City.
14 September 2022
Join us in London for 2 days as we look at the UK’s new landscape for utility & rooftop solar. Understand the new opportunities within this GW-plus annual market!

Read Next

July 25, 2022
Renewables developer Ørsted has entered into an agreement with German developer Ostwind to acquire 100% of its equity interest.
PV Tech Premium
July 22, 2022
Analysts have flagged concerns over a lack of clarity from Indonesia’s government related to power exports, potentially spelling trouble for project developers looking to transmit renewables generation from the country to neighbouring Singapore.
July 21, 2022
Quality assurance company DNV is collaborating with South Korean floating PV (FPV) component manufacturers to explore business opportunities in the global floating solar market.
July 20, 2022
RWE and floating solar company SolarDuck have partnered to explore the commercialisation of SolarDuck’s offshore floating solar PV (FPV) technology by trailing its potential in harsh environments in the North Sea.
July 19, 2022
Keppel Energy Nexus has landed a contract to pilot a membrane-based nearshore floating solar PV (FPV) system at Jurong Island, Singapore using FPV company Ocean Sun’s technology.
July 18, 2022
Germany generated a record amount of power from solar PV on Sunday, with this expected to be repeated over the coming days amid a fierce heatwave across western Europe, according to Bloomberg.  

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Upcoming Webinars
September 7, 2022
15:30 AEST (UTC +10)
Solar Media Events
September 14, 2022
London
Solar Media Events
October 4, 2022
New York, USA
Solar Media Events
October 11, 2022
Virtual event