Intersolar Europe: Storage technology in the spotlight

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pv magazine: We are excited to shortly be heading back to Munich to attend Intersolar Europe. What will the trends be for this year? What role does storage technology play?

Markus Elsässer: This year has seen a large increase in the area of energy storage, with more than 250 exhibitors dedicated to the sector expected to be in attendance, compared to 200 in 2013. This is partly due to the fact that, parallel to this year’s Intersolar Europe, we have augmented the storage technology theme with our new Electrical Energy Storage (EES) trade fair. We took over the EES, which was previously integrated into the Productronica trade fair, from the Messe München (new technologies trade fair), which took place in mid-November last year.

Where we previously focused on fixed storage devices in combination with PV, this year we have more exhibitors and information services in the areas of storage production, installation and operational safety, secondary use, and recycling. The possibilities for the secondary use of electromobility batteries for fixed house storage devices are a particularly exciting topic for the future. We have added the EES Award to this year’s Intersolar Awards and have received around 30 submissions. The ten nominated companies will present their products within the EES Forum during the fair in Hall B1. We have also broadened our conference program with several sessions on the topic of energy storage, covering the entire value chain from production and application to secondary use and recycling. Applications range from housing, industry and commerce to storage for whole neighborhoods and electromobility.

So is the general information about storage technology an important feature of Intersolar Europe?

Yes, storage technology is an important feature, as is – quite clearly – the industry’s continuing internationalization. We are by far the world’s most international platform. This year we expect up to 55% foreign exhibitors, which is again a slight increase over the previous year, as well as visitors from 150 countries. We will be exhibiting the highest number of innovations in the solar trade fair area and attempting to stimulate the market by raising a range of issues. We see ourselves as innovators in the exhibition area, not only in storage, but also on the subject of grid integration of photovoltaics as a whole and in the integration into building services. Also this year we once again have strong participation from inverter and power electronics suppliers. The number of exhibitors in this area over the previous year has remained stable, although there is also very strong international competition and the consolidation process is ongoing. The number of assembly system suppliers has also remained stable over the previous year.

How great do you expect the participation from cell and module manufacturers and mechanical engineers to be?

There has been a fall in the numbers of cell and module manufacturers; we expect some 250 exhibitors this year, which reflects the market. The number of exhibiting mechanical engineers has declined slightly, but we expect an international market upturn in this area for the future. Due to the circumstances in Germany, particularly the proposed amendment to the EEG, we are currently facing an enormously difficult situation.

How has the participation of Chinese companies developed?

Here we see, despite the booming Chinese market, a strong consolidation. Many companies that exhibited in Munich two or three years ago no longer exist. In 2011, we had a peak of more than 500 Chinese exhibitors. This year we are expecting around 200.

How many exhibitors and visitors are you expecting in total this year in Munich?

We expect a total of over 1,100 exhibitors. Last year we had 1,292 exhibitors. Accordingly, the exhibition area of 121,000 square meters in 2013 has been reduced to 90,000 square meters this year. But I believe that the worst is behind us. We expect about 50,000 visitors; last year there were about 47,000.

Despite the declining importance of the European photovoltaic market, do you still have faith in Munich as a location?

Yes, Europe is still important, and I also see a positive perspective. Europe is indeed very innovative; the majority of innovations in the market are still showcased at Intersolar Europe and it is by far the most international platform in the industry. We are moving farther afield with Intersolar and the Inter Solar Summits in other markets, for example with our summits in Mexico, Chile, India and Saudi Arabia. I predict, however, that Intersolar Europe will remain, for the foreseeable future, the most important trade fair. And I hope that politicians in Europe will recognize the potential of photovoltaics more than ever and put no obstacles in the way of further development. What gives me hope is that there are indeed bright spots such as in the U.K., where the PV market is growing markedly.

Last year, Intersolar Europe was opened by the German opposition leader Jürgen Trittin and the British energy minister. Which politician will speak at the official opening this year?

We have invited the relevant ministers from both the federal government and the Bavarian state government. We also expect the energy minister of Madhya Pradesh, an Indian state currently very committed to the expansion of photovoltaics and which seeks to increase PV performance to 2 GW by 2016, to open proceedings.

You mentioned the special exhibition, Electrical Energy Storage and network integration, as this year’s highlight and trend. What other highlights and new products can we expect to see at this year’s exhibition?

A lot is happening with PV power plants. With the help of modern electronics and optimized inverters, power plants are taking over more network tasks and connecting with more stand-alone systems. In the assembly area, there will be a lot of focus on systems that are lighter than ever and can be more efficiently installed. The topic of renewable heat is also strongly represented this year, with a three-day forum in Hall C 3. This will also cover the topic of heat from photovoltaics, for example, in combination with heat pumps. And for the first time, we will be presenting the current market outlook from EPIA during the opening of the conference program.