Greetings from Las Vegas! It’s good to be back after a week in Anaheim at the RE+ Conference and Trade Show. And what a show it was! All the major actors in the industry (and those of us up and coming) were on display across four exhibit halls. Experts from all corners of renewable energy and storage technology could be heard on panels discussing present and future trends of the industry. If you were lucky, you could catch some of these folks at one of the evening parties and get industry intel that might not have come out in a conference session.
Get your sun chips here
Uplift has a few takeaways after being on the scene. First, the competition has come a long way from simply striving to be the biggest or cheapest. Sure, we saw a 600-watt solar panel or two towering over “yesterday’s” 450-watt versions. We were pleased to see, however, that the emphasis on technology is now about innovations to meet specific use cases. Portable solar, flexible solar, and off-grid solar-powered appliances definitely showed up and received a lot of attention. And rightly so. Renewables have democratized power, and it is no longer about large and highly engineered systems connected to a utility grid. Power anywhere you want it is a consumer trend, and the pent up demand for it was clearly evident in the popularity of the booths showcasing new form factors for easy-to-deploy power systems.
Second, we remain surprised that building-integrated solar (BIPV) did not have more of a showing. The conference sponsored a few hours of discussion on the last day, but not that many companies are already reaching towards the possibilities of solarized building materials. The federal government is putting money into BIPV, and we know a few firms who are currently working on commercializing solar building products. Uplift’s power electronics are uniquely suited to serve BIPV products, and we look forward to seeing this market sector’s break-out performance at next year’s conference.
Of course, many panel manufacturers are focused on producing solar panels as they exist today to fill the shortfall of supply needed to meet demand. We are certain that competition will inevitably require differentiation and innovation, and BIPV is the obvious next step in the evolution of solar panels so that they can grow and follow industry trends. Those “in the know” recognize that solar alone will not cut it, and “smart” modules – also, “pretty” modules – will be the way that manufacturers will stay relevant in the market.
We are also hearing but not seeing buzz about automotive-integrated solar (AIPV). Powering electric vehicles is a challenge that is only partially solved today. We see lots of opportunity for after-market solar on combustion engine vehicles to reduce reliance on gas or diesel, and solarized car parts that help serve electric vehicle’s auxiliary loads. Some of these technologies may be featured at EV conferences or car conventions, but don’t change that channel! We predict that AIPV will be right along side BIPV at next year’s RE+.
Finally, the energy storage side of the conference was also quite impressive. Batteries not already integrated into a system were scattered about in large displays, in all shapes and chemistries. Most of these displays promised more storage and greater efficiency for utility-scale energy projects. Again, it’s all about bigger and cheaper. But we had our eye on the residential side. Many companies are introducing home energy systems that complement, back-up, and isolate homes with reliable full power. The battery systems and intelligence that goes with them are impressive, enabling deep cycle and multiple operating modes that automate energy management for the variable loads in the home. These companies have integrated the batteries, inverters, and circuit monitors with sophisticated software, all of which is sold as a plug-and-play package. We anticipate they will soon be looking for smart solar panels to fit into their ecosystem. We are ready to support that trend with our smart, solar-integrated power electronics.
While the show is “dog-gone,” the story goes on. Being at the conference was totally energizing, as one would expect. Uplift is excited about the coming year and returning to the conference in 2023 when it is in our home town. In the meantime, thanks to everyone who subscribed to our blog! We raised a number of subscriptions earning a $1/person for Best Friends Animal Society and the Gentle Barn. We will be donating $100 to these worthy causes.