One of the biggest solar events of the year, Solar Power International (SPI), took place last week in Las Vegas. SPI hosted most of the major players in the solar industry and served as a platform for new product and policy announcements, projections about the future and some good old-fashioned shmoozing. Here are some of the biggest headlines that came out of Sin City last week.
- Enphase makes two big announcements. Enphase, the industry leader in inverter technology, unleashed its fifth-generation micro-inverter featuring 275-watt AC output. The new model will be able to accommodate higher-wattage modules than the previous one, which was limited to 250 watts AC. Even more surprising, though, was Enphase’s entry into the energy storage scene with a battery announcement. While battery backup systems are at this point far too expensive to be widely cost-effective, Enphase’s new product is likely to help drive costs down faster. Enphase executives expect the battery to come in cheaper than current offerings from Tesla and SolarCity.
- Speaking of SolarCity… Lyndon Rive, CEO of top US installer SolarCity, made some headlines with his speech on Tuesday. Continuing on the topic of energy storage, Rive projected that “every solar system will have a storage system with it.” Rive also advocated strongly for stronger policy support for the solar industry, arguing that the federal government ought either to institute a tax on companies that pollute or support companies that don’t through an indefinite extension of the 30% federal investment tax credit.
- Big names from Washington support key solar policies. Senator Reid, whose home state is Nevada, was in attendance to praise the growth of the national solar industry and defend the policies in place to support it. Like Rive, Senator Reid called for the investment tax credit, which is only in place until 2016, to be extended further into the future.
Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz was also on hand, speaking in front of a massive solar array recently installed on the roof of the Mandalay Bay. Secretary Moniz announced $53 million of funding for solar research and development through the federal SunShot Initiative, intended to drive down the cost of solar through 2020. Stephen Lacey at GreenTech Media has an interesting take on this announcement, questioning whether SunShot funding is necessary to incentivize companies to innovate further.
Moniz also told listeners to look forward to a new round of federal loan guarantees for renewable energy projects. While the loan guarantee program has been stigmatized by the high-profile collapse of Solyndra years ago, Moniz defended the program by citing a 98 percent success rate.