Intersolar NA: Bullish PV prospects for US

While some have reported the opening-day attendance figures as being down on previous years, many companies have said they are optimistic about the prospects for the U.S. and Canadian markets at the Intersolar North America tradeshow.

The newly appointed Mark Bronez, president of Hanwha SolarOne North America, told pv magazine he is confident that the U.S. photovoltaic market is set for growth. "I’m very bullish on the market," said Bronez. "We had a great Q1 with over 85 percent growth over Q1 2011. The forecast is for three gigawatts to be installed this year in the U.S. so I’m quite bullish about where the market is going."

Sharp Solar North America’s Tim Polega said that while he was hesitant to give exact numbers on what Sharp expects from the U.S. market in terms of demand, he too believes that it will be a photovoltaic market of some significance. In the residential market, Sharp said it is confident it will be able to leverage its strong brand.

Polega further reported to pv magazine that financing models for residential photovoltaics is a major trend in the U.S. "If you go back 15 months in California, around 25 to 40 percent of residential installations were financed, so someone was bringing in a PPA or a lease structure. By the end of last year it was up to around 70 percent."

Moves towards more cooperation and collaboration within the industry were also apparent on the first day of the region’s biggest tradeshow. At the opening session, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed by leading photovoltaic research bodies. The U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute and Japan’s Research Center for Photovoltaic Technologies were signatories to the MOU and the bodies will form a Global Alliance of Solar Energy Research Institutes.

The new agreement will facilitate all three institute’s mission to, "Accelerate progress toward shared solar research and development goals as well as to ensure sustainable long-term use of solar energy." The main focus of the Alliance will be a researcher exchange program.

Local and city government officials also featured prominently at both the Intersolar North America and its side events. San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee spoke at the opening session and said that there are more than 200 companies in the city and Bay Area in the cleantech sector. "There is no better place for the solar industry to come together and meet right here in San Francisco," said Lee.

According to the Intersolar North America organizers, approximately 22,000 visitors from 80 countries are expected to visit the around 800 exhibitors at Intersolar North America. While they predict "record" numbers for this year’s event, some of the visitors are more skeptical. On twitter today, Ed Gunter reported "Day 1 traffic was light". On the other hand, Tom Cheyney responded, "Matter of perspective. Some 8000 & 9000 hall areas pretty jammed when I was up there yesterday PM".

In the coming days, pv magazine will feature key San Francisco Bay Area photovoltaic firms, from upstream to downstream, including Stion, MiaSole, Solar Mosaic and Greenvolts. Also watch out for more news from the tradeshow.

Edited by Becky Beezt.