CIPV Expo 2011 in review: Growth on the agenda

This past Friday and weekend a photovoltaic exhibition and conference took place in Beijing with the following "extra large" title: "The 3rd China (Beijing) International Photovoltaic Industry New Technology New Material New Product New Equipment Exhibition", or "CIPV Expo 2011" for short.

Using Chinese characters, the title is not quite as imposing, but the big title shows the ambitions of this trade show and its organizer, Beijing Tiger Exhibition Co., Ltd. According to Du Kai of Beijing Tiger Exhibition, the expo has the goal of growing from one large exhibition hall this year to five next April. They are striving to become the largest photovoltaic exhibition in northern China.

CIPV Expo 2011 ran from Friday April 8 to Sunday 10. On Saturday, April 9, a full day conference took place right next to the exhibition hall. It was well attended, although almost exclusively by Chinese participants. The conference provided a good overview of China’s photovoltaic landscape, ranging from off-grid installations in rural areas (the birthplace of the Chinese photovoltaic industry) to cutting-edge BIPV installations in China’s booming cities.

Fukushima was also on people’s minds and one could sense the added momentum of photovoltaics in China compared to the much bigger SNEC trade show in Shanghai in February. Before the March 11 earthquake hit Japan, five gigawatts (GW) was China’s 2015 target for installed photovoltaic capacity, which seemed a weak goal for a country that can do so much in a short period of time – the Beijing Olympics, the Shanghai Expo and the high-speed railway network are some recent examples – and which ranks as the world’s leader in photovoltaic production.

Less than two months after SNEC 10 GW has become the 2015 target and there is a sense that photovoltaic development needs to be accelerated. The problems with nuclear power were highlighted by Udo Möhrstedt, CEO of IBC Solar, who recalled the impact of Chernobyl on Germany and how this experience led to the rise of Germany’s photovoltaic industry. In his remarks during the opening ceremony of CIPV EXPO 2011, Möhrstedt mentioned that even today the consumption of wild boar meat was limited in Germany, because high levels of radiation remained in the animals.

Two other foreign countries featured prominently at this show, namely Switzerland and the United States.

Switzerland had its own Swiss Pavilion and, like the much larger Swiss Pavilion during the 2010 Shanghai Expo, the focus was on clean tech "made in Switzerland". Oerlikon showcased its thin film production technology in this pavilion; not far away its customer, Chint Solar based in Hangzhou, China, was showing its state of the art thin film panels.

Furthermore, building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) featured prominently in the conference sessions, thanks in part to two of the six CIPV EXPO 2011 sponsors, the China BIPV Application Committee and the Construction Industry Commerce Chamber of China Chamber of International Commerce. In addition to Chint Solar, various Chinese firms showed an impressive range of BIPV applications and projects.

The U.S. photovoltaics leader First Solar also presented its thin film expertise at the conference and gave an update on its photovoltaic production cost leadership position (currently US$0.75 per Watt).

The U.S. was additionally represented in the opening ceremony with the head of the Embassy’s energy office remarking that China and the U.S. shared an obligation to promote renewable energy, since together both countries consumed over half of the world’s energy.

By the time the next CIPV EXPO rolls around in 2012, it will be interesting to see what both countries have achieved in this area, including photovoltaic development in their home markets.