Solar

Solar Technology Experts Look at Future of Solar Market

Solar technology experts, component manufacturers, distributors and system installers gathered last month at summits hosted by SMA America in New Jersey and California to analyze industry changes, and offered insights on trends expected to affect their businesses and their customers.

“The solar marketplace is expanding rapidly, and new government policies provide both incentives and consumer protection. All of us must continually add to our understanding of the industry as it goes mainstream,” said Pierre-Pascal Urbon, President, SMA America, a solar power inverter manufacturer. Observations from the Solar Installers Summit series include: — Globally, solar panel installations grew by about 1.8 gigawatts (GW) in 2006. This year, 2.3 GW are expected to be installed. — The federal solar energy investment tax credit of 30% for homeowners and businesses has been extended through 2008. — Regulatory compliance structures and rebate programs are in flux nationwide. — The California Solar Initiative (CSI) provides $2.8 billion in funding over 11 years to spur solar development. Part of a cutting-edge energy policy strategy, the CSI goal is to create 3,000 megawatts of new, solar-produced electricity by 2017. — While California has the most extensive energy and environmental policies in the country, New Jersey and small states like Vermont now contribute policy strategies and significant programs to advance the use of solar energy. — Development and use of thin-film technology, a less costly alternative to silicon-based photovoltaic solar cells, is growing fast. Thin-film production is expected to reach about 120 megawatts (MW) in 2007 and more than 170 MW in 2008. “The California Solar Initiative was among the most talked-about subjects at the West Coast summit,” said Urbon. “CSI is a new and complex program so the audience really appreciated getting a better understanding of its benefits, specific incentives and how it will be implemented.”