When I walked the aisles at Solar Power 08 it was salmon-packed-home-bound-up-the-river-time; you literally moved down aisles in slow motion. Like the telecommunications scene two decades ago, consolidation is coming fast to the solar industry. I’ve never seen so many manufacturers of photovoltaic (PV) modules; they’re not all going to make it. But it’s not just PV manufacturers here in San Diego, there’s a fully developed ecosystem including utilities, distributors, contractors, installers, architects, consultants and financiers.
The most amazing factoid I’ve heard so far is fresh data published by the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA), which co-sponsors the show with the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
SEPA disclosed that utilities are quickly becoming the largest customer for the solar industry. Leading the way is Southern California Edison which has the most solar electric capacity integrated into its power portfolio. Overall capacity exceeds 409 megawatts. Pacific Gas & Electric has the most solar electric capacity on the customer side of the meter with 144+ megawatts. And there are dozens and dozens of other utilities upping the ante.
It’s not a cliche to say we’re only seeing the literal tip of the iceberg. 2008 has seen an unprecedented number of announcements of large solar power projects that include concentrating solar thermal and photovoltaic plants. The scale of activity is massive, over 5,500 projects ranging from 10 to 800 megawatt installations.
Lots and lots of jobs are also being created; over 4.2 million nationally at last count.
As Governor Schwarzenegger said “Solar is everywhere, it’s the future; it can’t be stopped.”
Everybody in San Diego is pretty pumped up this week; encouraging news for a struggling economic time.
Let the sunshine in.