The mood on the final day of the Intersolar North America trade show was subdued and the traffic through the trade show slow, however many attendees have reported that the previous three days’ discussions had been valuable.
The Intersolar North America trade show has proven that it is not a show in rapid decline in 2013, despite exhibitor numbers being clearly reduced and visitors on the third day scarce. In keeping with the spirit of nearby Silicon Valley, a number of solar-industry start-ups have emerged out of "stealth mode" at the show.
One notable start-ups introducing new products and services was RSI. The company has developed proprietary processes for CdTe deposition, which allows larger modules to be produced. At Intersolar North America, RSI unveiled its large-format CdTe module, roughly double the size of CdTe giant First Solar’s.
"This allows RSI to produce a 280W module," said Paul Fox, RSI’s VP for corporate development. "Going bigger also allows us to reduce costs," he added.
RSI employs a lower-temperature deposition process, at roughly 60C, which is the primary reason why RSI can produce the large modules. "With higher temperatures during deposition, manufacturers can experience warping or glass breakages," said Fox. RSI met with companies at Intersolar North America, with a view to license its deposition technology on a regional basis, "it’s a hybrid licensing model," added Fox.
Alion debuts robot PV installer
Also emerging was Alion Energy, which is introducing a robot photovoltaic power plant installation system and cleaning technology. The start-up claims its installation robot, the Rover, is able to complete solar installations twice as fast as manual process and at half the labor cost. To allow the Rover to work effectively, Alion has designed a non-penetrating concrete rail system for the Rover to move across which then becomes the base for the mounting system structure.
Alion Energy’s president and CEO was formerly with Trina Solar, with other members of the management team hailing from established players such as SunPower, First Solar and Conergy.
Also relatively new to the photovoltaic market, although by no means a start-up, Talesun had a strong presence at Intersolar North America. Vice president of sales and marketing Frank Qi said he had been meeting a lot of customers and friends over the three-day show, "but a lot of friends have disappeared," he added.
The North American market remains an important one for Talesun, reported Qi, saying the firm hopes to realise sales in North America of more than 100 MW. On top of that, the diversified Chinese company also intends to realise a project pipeline in the U.S. of approximately 100 MW by the end of the year.
Touching on a theme discussed numerous times at Intersolar North America, Talesun’s Qi also emphasised module quality was paramount in today’s market.
"A strong commitment to quality is a great asset to our sales team," said Qi. "Customers need confidence and proof of quality and Talesun has brought on board new quality assurance leadership to ensure quality."
Hanwha SolarOne benefits from Q CELLS experience
Hanwha Q CELLS is also remaining active in North America as both a module supplier and product developer. Mark Bronez, president of Hanwha Q CELLS USA, told pv magazine that when the Hanwha Group acquired the insolvent Q CELLS it also acquired its project pipeline in North America.
"Q CELLS in North America did have a lot of good business already," said Bronez. "In North America they had three projects totalling 110 MW and they are significant projects with experience on the ground amongst the team."
Providing evidence of the benefits the firm gains through this, Bronez said the history of the Q CELLS in North America has delivered Hanwha Q CELLS significant project development capabilities. This is evident, said Bronez, in the recent announcement of the firm’s 42 MW OSPVF project in Ontario, Canada. "It’s a really bad name," joked Bronez.
On the lighter side, Wednesday night’s Battle of the Bands revealed working in the solar sector and musical greatness are not mutually exclusive. Hanwah Q CELLS’ Bronez was a conspicuous participant, performing The Police’s 80s hit "Walking on the Moon." Solar lease provider and installer Sungevity took out the band competition.