Intersolar North America: positive responses from exhibitors

The second day of the Intersolar North America trade show in San Francisco wound down on Wednesday with some exhibitors reporting that the quality of conversations and traffic on the 2012 show is greatly improved. While attendance figures are still not available, organizers Solar Promotion report that it is meeting its expectations and the show is on track to attract close to the expected 19,000 attendees over the course of the event.

"The difference is like night and day," said Mark Mendenhall, Trina Solar’s president for the Americas region, in describing the improved quality of traffic and meetings at Intersolar North America this year. Trina has released its Trinasmart modules at the show, which incorporate Silicon Valley startup Tigo Energy’s optimizer technology. The Tigo optimizer is incorporated into the Trinasmart modules, which the firms claim deliver a host of advantages in terms of module output, optimization and installation advantages.

The addition of the Tigo optimizer technology into the modules comes at a cost of approximately $0.20 per watt on the module level, said Trina’s Mendenhall, but delivers a host of savings in that it allows installers to employ more modules in a string and also on one roof. The Trinasmart solution is best suited to residential and commercial rooftops, the firms report. "It opens a whole different mindset to installations," said Mendenhall.

The launch of the Trinasmart modules at the trade show is significant also in that it comes three years after Tigo and Trina first spoke about collaborating at the same event. Trina is initially aiming to incorporate the Tigo technology in approximately one-third of its modules in North America this year, with that number increasing over time. "I have to convince Mark [Mendenhall] to go to 100%," said Tigo’s James Bickford optimistically.

In the turbulent time that the solar industry finds itself in at present, it is not all good news from the show. The insolvencies of Conergy and its fully owned subsidiary Mounting Systems have cast somewhat of a shadow over the proceedings. Putting on a brave face despite the uncertainty, Mounting Systems representatives in San Francisco told pv magazine that the company’s operations in North America would not be impacted by the insolvency.

In the area of IT applications for photovoltaics, AlsoEnergy is showing its wares at Intersolar North America. AlsoEnergy provides monitoring software for photovoltaic arrays, which can allow owners to monitor a portfolio of systems. The resulting data can help array owners to optimize their operations and maintenance program. The Colorado-based software firm is also collecting a huge amount of data through its cloud-based solution with over 10,000 data points now available. As yet, AlsoEnergy chief technology officer Holden Cain explained, the firm has not begun to monetize this data. Cain added that some of the data is revealing that module degradation is sometimes well below predicted levels, a sign that module quality may be holding up in terms of pressure on prices.

Quality was an issue that material supplier DuPont was keen to emphasize in San Francisco this week. DuPont arranged a tour of its enhanced Silicon Valley innovation center on Monday, where attendees could see how the firm is able to test its materials on production lines that are identical to those used in scale production. DuPont’s Conrad Burke said the group had had invested many millions of dollars in the facility.

DuPont was also one of the hosts of the PV Reliability Reception on Wednesday in partnership with SEMI and PV Group. Burke said that as module prices have fallen dramatically over the past two years, he has observed quality slipping. "I’ve noticed a deviation in the standards, reliability and durability of products," said Burke, adding that he had been speaking to downstream companies about quality during Intersolar to communicate that not all modules are the same, and that it’s important for companies "to know what’s in their modules."

The Intersolar North America trade show concludes on Thursday.