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Oct 30, 2013  | Tom Cheyney  | 0 Comments

Solar Power International 2013 postscript, Part 3

Assessing the cream of the media-outlet content crop from this year’s show

As the dust settles after this year’s Solar Power International, the coverage from the various media outlets can be evaluated more comprehensively, now that most of the post-show news stories and blog-features have been filed along with the on-the-ground reporting and blogging. Donning my curatorial hat, I sample some creamy samples that rise to the top of the #SPICon content churn so far.

In terms of sheer sweat equity, the nod has to go to the Renewable Energy World team, for its 42 (and counting) videos and handful of written features. Ranging in length from a few minutes to complete conference speeches and sessions (here’s the presentation by ARPA-e’s Cheryl Martin, for example) there is enough video footage to occupy one’s eyeballs for weeks to come. The “Solar on the Street” segments bring a more populist tone to the portfolio with their off-the-cuff mini-interviews with attendees, and include one of the more comprehensive overviews of the Start-Up Alley competition via a 23-minute-plus segment.  (If you don’t want to spend the time with that video, I suggest checking out Matthew Hirsch’s read-worthy GreenBiz article about winner Greenlancer and some of the other entrepreneurial contestants.)

As if the video grind was not enough, the REW team was also responsible for writing, editing, and producing the “SPI Daily News” show dailies. (Yo Pennwell powers-that-be, how about bonuses for Jennifer Runyon and her crew?) And for a light touch seasoned with astute observations, check out Tor “Solar Fred” Valenza’s REW write-up, “SPI 13 Solar Event Marketing Trends: The Good, the Bad, and the Hmm…,” in which he talks about the impact of industry consolidation on booth sizes and locations, lauds exhibitors with proper booth demos, and enjoys a hand-shucked oyster.

A tip of the Curator’s hat also goes to Felicity Carus of PV-Tech, whose series of thoughtful posts each pack a high density of relevant information interwoven with proper contextual insights. One thing you can count on with Felicity’s work is her use of first-person quotes and her ability to get out of the way to let the sources tell their stories—and occasionally take them to task for their words. For example, here’s an excerpt from the opening session speech by SEPA’s Julia Hamm, followed by the indefatigable Ms. C’s comments:

“’Solar panels may offer consumers the chance to untether from the utility, to be free from the monopoly provider or to be partially free, but in the end the grid and a solar system offer the consumer the same product–electrons,’” [said Hamm].

“But I’m not sure that is entirely true,” Felicity posits. “Think of all the other services such as energy efficiency, smart appliances and demand response software [that] companies are trying to package with their solar offerings, SolarCity and Vivint Solar, just to name two.”

For more of Felicity’s posts, including her interview with featured speaker Minh Le of DOE and her take on the legendary comedy troupe Second City’s hilarious SPI routine,  click here, here, and here.

Although women have played key roles in the solar industry since its inception, this year’s SPI could be called a inspirational coming-out party for the ladies, at least in terms of awareness and solidarity. The “Professional Women in Solar” breakfast was sold out and the industry’s first women-directed marketing survey took center stage at Solar Central (documented via this REW video), both of which were duly noted in Rosana Francescato’s spot-on pair of blog posts at PV Solar Report.

“Does diversity matter for your company? Carol Giles Neslund, VP of North America sales at Enphase, emphatically answers ‘Yes,’” Rosana writes. “Companies with more diversity are more effective and make more money. That means that solar companies need to hire more women. And as women in solar, we need to facilitate that and help one another be successful. It’s lonely at the top if you get there alone. Neslund has practiced this in her own career, and she’s found that the more women she was able to bring to table, the better decisions her company made. Not to mention that women, major decision-makers in most households, matter in this market. Neslund advised us to be flexible and find a balance between focusing on relationship and task. Leadership, she said, is about flexibility and meeting the occasion, while being authentic.”

For a one-stop recap of this year’s SPI, you could do worse than the “odds and sods” (apologies to The Who) from Greentech Media’s editorial emir, Eric Wesoff. He “spoke with more than 60 senior solar executives last week. Despite financial travails and disrupted markets, the solar module and balance-of-system industry is optimistic about 2014,” citing the healthy market forecasts generated by his colleagues at GTM Research. Eric also remarked on “the swarm of system-mounting hardware companies at SPI. Mark it down to the increasing relative cost of BOS, the low barrier to entry, and the excitement caused by SolarCity’s $158 million acquisition of grooved hardware supplier Zep Solar. This sector is the current focus for cost reduction–as well as the next sector set for a shakeout.”

Yes, solarians, watch for more shakeouts to come, in the racking/mounting sector and elsewhere (sure are a slew of inverter firms, just sayin’), as the industry grows out of what I like to call its “tweener stage.” See you in Vegas next year for SPI 2014!


Sources: Renewable Energy World, GreenBiz, PV-Tech, PV Solar Report, Greentech Media, SolarCurator

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