US: SPI to showcase new conference format

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In an interview, Brian Tully, executive director of Solar Energy Trade Shows LLC tells pv magazine that a new advisory council comprised of industry consultants, and representatives from solar companies and utilities, was established to create this year’s conference program.

The advisory council has chosen 35 presentations from a total of 800 submissions for this year’s conference. "Those 800 submissions have been funneled down to 35 of the best programs we think we can present. They are in the area of finance, technology, policy – obviously an important part of the whole solar equation in terms of development – integration and markets," comments Tully.

A review committee, which was established to elect the new council, and is comprised of a "much larger group of people", also took part in the presentation selection process. "It worked out that each individual that actually looked into and scored a submission looked at about 15 to 20 of those," says Tully. The members of the committee will rotate on a two-yearly basis, to replace those on the advisory council.

Fresh starts and growing capacity

As has been published previously, the eighth SPI will be held for the first time outside of California, in Dallas Texas. Next year, it is set to move to Orlando, Florida, before heading to Chicago, Illinois, in 2013. "And we get close to California once again in 2014, with our event being scheduled for Las Vegas," explains Tully.

He goes on to say that this year’s exhibition space has grown from an estimated 650,000 square feet in the Los Angeles Convention Center, to 800,000 in Dallas’. Tully says the event is already at full capacity, and that there will even be exhibitors displaying their wares outside in the parking lot.

"In addition to being sold out inside the building, we’ve identified space in the parking lot adjacent to the building for some outdoor exhibits. We have about five of those spaces remaining out of about 30," continues Tully.

Explaining why the event has moved states, he says, "As the industry grows, it is really time for the two associations which own this show [SEIA and SEPA] to lead the industry to other sectors of the country, to other markets in the country, with the mission and message of solar."

Opening night

In addition to changing the process of how the presentations are chosen, SPI has also moved its general session from the Tuesday morning to the Monday evening. The reason behind this change is due to the packed program, which kicks off on the Tuesday.

"To that point," says Tully, "we’ve created a new opportunity this year with business meeting rooms that companies can rent from us for those proprietary discussions off the floor. They will open early on Tuesday morning at 7 am. We anticipate that those rooms will be busy throughout the entire conference program."

At the general session, Earvin "Magic" Johnson has been invited to speak. When asked why he was chosen as opposed to a leading solar or energy specialist, Tully replies, "The advisory council thought that for a Monday evening before the opening of the exhibit, a lighter presentation, and one that had some parallels that spoke to the entrepreneurship of the individual executives that were there [would be interesting]."

Around 24,000 visitors from 120,countries are expected to attend Solar Power International 2011. Furthermore, over 1,200 companies are expected to exhibit their products on the trade show floors. Tulley tells pv magazine that the top five exhibitors, by country, are Germany, Korea, China, Mexico and Spain.

Watch out for the October edition of pv magazine, which will contain a more in-depth interview with Brian Tully.