Intersolar Europe: day two sees the crowds converge as Europe embraces maturation

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That this year’s Intersolar Europe was expected to attract slightly more visitors than last year was not, in itself, particularly noteworthy. After all, 40,000 visitors looks like 35,000 visitors when spread across an exhibition hall, over three days.

But day two at the Intersolar Europe exhibition has been markedly busy throughout. From the long lines of sun-shy exhibitors (the mercury topped 33c in Munich today) waiting patiently in the shade for a beer and bratwurst, to the huddles of attendees gathered at seemingly every booth corner throughout the exhibition halls, bustle has returned to Intersolar Europe.

Crowds were denser in those halls where storage and e-mobility were the main topics, but even seasoned solar stalwarts saw their booths heave with activity.

“It’s good to see how many large players still believe in the long-term potential of the European market,” Frank Niendorf, JinkoSolar’s general manager for Europe told pv magazine. “Many of these companies were forced to look internationally because that’s where there is definite market boom, and driven by the FIT cuts that we saw in so many countries, and the impact of MIP that is keeping system price levels high, we are in the middle of a consolidation period of the European market.

Niendorf explained that there are many factors influencing this natural transition period, not least the hurdles posed by large utilities that sought to apply the brakes to solar’s growth – a growth that caught many by surprise.

“Solar’s expansion meant Europe faced this new challenge of integrating all this generation capacity into the grid, and we saw the reaction of the impact this had on the big utilities across Europe.

“So that is why some brakes were pushed, from a political perspective, until such a point that grid integration issues were solved, and storage was available, to finally get back into a growth mode. We are not quite there yet, but by the end of 2017 the transition will be over. By then we will have new storage solutions in place to help decentralize even more, better grid integration, and local governments – as well as the European Commission – will come up with some new regulatory changes that will stimulate the growth of solar again.”

Niendorf continued: “This is an attractive market, and cost reduction potential is still there. Add storage and its own 25-30% cost reduction every year, and I can see why people are excited. We believe in the long-term potential of the European market. The market is digesting. There is a need for replacing existing capacity – coal plants and nuclear plants. There are clean energy targets across the continent, and countries only have one choice – adopt renewables. And solar is the popular choice.”

“Compared to last year the show seems so much busier,” said Andreas Schmidt, head of marketing at Delta. “Industry has seen the bottom line, and that panic mode has been neutralized, and we are seeing again the opportunities for substantial business growth in Europe.”

Kaco’s head of corporate communications Andreas Schlumberger noted that although the show is smaller than in the boom years, there has been a tangible shift in the types of attendees at the show. “Maybe it’s not 60,000 visitors like a few years ago, but 40,000 is a lot, and many of those visiting the booth are what we call high quality visitors – and they do seem to be coming from all over the world as well.”

After the adjustment

The dazzling displays by various e-mobility and storage companies aside, a much more sober, sensible stance has been adopted by most exhibitors. There are a handful of game-changing innovations on show; but in general the mood is one of incremental improvement in services and technology, and a firmer grasp of what a more mature Europe needs.

SolarPower Europe tapped into this mood today with the launch of its O&M Best Practices Guidelines – the result of a taskforce convened at the beginning of 2015 to identify the most pressing needs of the O&M market. "This document is an important first step towards establishing an industry-wide standard and must serve as an authoritative point of reference for stakeholders looking for reliability and performance of their long-term asset, and anyone procuring and retaining a solar O&M service provider," said Stefan Degener, Task Force leader and Senior Director of O&M for First Solar in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. "The fact is that these guidelines incorporate the collective experience of the some of the largest players in the industry – with several Gigawatts of expertise between them – and offers unparalleled guidance on professional O&M."

"The published guidelines are not the end of the process; the key now is successful implementation of the recommendations. This will ensure the long-term performance and durability of solar power in Europe and beyond.”

"Operations & Maintenance services are increasingly vital as solar continues to grow into a mainstream energy source in Europe. These guidelines can be of great benefit to our sector, ensuring the technical and economic performance of solar PV systems in years to come" said James Watson, CEO of SolarPower Europe.