The 4th annual PV Industry Forum, forms the opening salvo of this years Intersolar conference and exhibition in Munich. Bringing together the great and the good of the PV industry, it gives the B2B big wigs a chance to mingle and “learn” before the main event starts on Thursday with the Intersolar Trade Fair.
Starting at the very civilised time of 12:15pm, the forum began with a somewhat too detailed roundup of the current political environment for PV markets globally. Touted as a view of the top 10 global PV markets, Gerhard Stryi-Hipp, CEO of BSW Solar, the German trade association and lobbying body, used his 40minutes to repeat often seen slides about the well publicised rise of the German solar industry, and his organisations large part in the industries success.
Little effort was made to interest the audience and the forum was running the risk of becoming parochially German before it really got underway, this was a big concern for the organisers who are trying to position Intersolar as ‘the world event’ for PV. What followed in the next two hours was a marathon effort to disseminate readily available public information imparted in lacklustre ways.
Anyone with an internet connection can find out what the official FiT’s (Feed in Tariff’s) are in Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Greece. The presentation on the USA solar market was completely dominated by the ITC (investment tax credits) and when a cohesive question was put forward, “What are the differences between the two American presidential candidates in their stance on the ITCs and solar?” the speaker declined to share her views, frustratingly leaving the audience hanging.
The highlight of the first session came when, Paolo Rocco Visconti, from GIFI, the Italian PV trade body responded to a very real concern from the audience on the ENEL (the Italian energy giant) reluctance to connect already built PV power generation facilities in Italy. The questioner highlighted the Phoenix Solar installation that took six months after completion to be connected to the grid. Visconti responded, “It was that quick?” After the laughter died down, he seriously pointed out that ENEL really, “didn’t care” and that unless the government put in some hefty financial penalties that this situation was unlikely to change!
Frank Haugwitz, consultant with Integration, did a good presentation on the key Asian markets of China, Taiwan, South Korea and Malaysia. Rather then highlighting important PV markets the sum of these presentations served to marginalize the current role of PV by repeatedly stating that the only thing keeping the industry afloat is subsidies.
At PV-Tech.org we are trying to promote the accurate dissemination of technical manufacturing information so that the industry can thrive as soon as possible without government subsidies. Little attention was paid to this during the first part of the forum.
Nervous sounding analysts asked question after question about governmental moods legislating on solar, to be met with what now appears to be the standard response that ‘right now things are good but tomorrow – when the next election comes – who can say?
The final sessions of the day focussed on promising technologies that could survive the vagaries of political backing on their own merits. Dr Rutger Schlatman, CEO, of PV Kompetenz in Berlin, gave a very good technical presentation on the various thin film technologies. To my delight, detailed process and machinery information was presented. This included a step-by-step process guide to the deposition of CIGS, which created a welcome counterpoint to the overview of the first half of the day.
The good information kept on coming with CEO of Inspira, Ignacio Luque-Heredia, giving an excellent round up on the tracking systems required for large-scale ground mounted systems and CPV/CSP power plants.
Finally we were treated to a detailed look at an area that I sadly lack knowledge in, concentrated PV technologies. Dr Bett from ISE gave good financial reasons as to why CPV could be the choice utility power generation technology now and in the future.
Intersolar appears to be building momentum and I did get the feeling that the first half of the forum was designed to get the whole issue of subsides and governmental market conditions out of the way. At least I hope that we can now focus on the big issue of making PV manufacturable on a large scale and meet grid parity goals.
It must be said that the organisers have done a fantastic job of attracting people from all over the world with representatives from, Sharp, Suntech, Motech, China Sun Energy, LDK and Trina Solar alongside the ubiquitous European and US companies.
If the trend continues for participation over the next four days than Intersolar will rightfully claim the title as the truly global PV event.