Renewable Energy Gathers Under One Roof, One Vision

The Power-Gen Renewable energy conference has officially kicked off in the trade show capitol of the world, reflecting renewable energy’s increasing push into the mainstream and demonstrating the wide variety of solutions available to accelerate the global shift towards cleaner energy solutions.

This year’s conference, organized by the American Council For Renewable Energy (ACORE) and PennWell Associates, has proven a resounding success with a near near-doubling of both attendees and exhibitors. Last year’s conference, the first ACORE trade show to put all the renewable energy technologies under one roof, had only 46 exhibitors, but this year’s event ballooned to 106 exhibitors covering nearly every facet of the renewable energy technology sphere. “There have never been as many, and as broad a mix of renewable energy companies in one place at one time as this show,” said Rhone Resch, Executive Director of the DC-based Solar Energy Industries Association. “This seems to offer a very important role in demonstrating all the companies and renewable energy options that exist and state officials, federal officials and private investors are here to learn more about these technologies and the role they can play in the US.” Companies range from large industrial wind turbine manufacturers like GE Energy, Vestas; PV companies like BP solar, shell solar; project developers Airtrcity, EnXco; geothermal companies like Ormat to companies with a vested interest in biofuels like DaimlerChrysler. In his opening remarks to a packed presentation hall at the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel, Eckhart described ACORE not a trade association “but more like an industrial strength non-profit.” Each event put on by the group has tailored its location to the event’s particular focus. A policy-based conference last fall took place in partnership with the US Congress and was held in the Cannon Caucus room on Capitol Hill in D.C. ACORE’s finance forums are held on Wall Street, and of course, the main trade show to demonstrate all renewable energy technologies to consumers and other end-users is held in Las Vegas. Renewable energy trade shows have historically been technology or trade association driven but part of ACORE’s goal is to coral the disparate companies and technologies under one roof since many experts agree that the solution to a cleaner, more diverse and secure energy infrastructure will not come from one technology alone. “There’s no silver bullet, but rather what we need is silver buckshot,” said Dan Arvizu, the new Director of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) who presented the keynote speech to open up the first full day of the event. “We’re not out of good ideas, there are still plenty of tremendously promising technologies and approaches.” While NREL offers federally directed and funded research into renewables that has made enormous strides in improving and commercializing renewable energy, the market itself is speaking loudly, particularly among the states. “The phenomenal expansion in attendance and sophisticated equipment and technology on display is driven primarily by demand from state governments and businesses,” said Mike Eckhart, President of ACORE. “Over the last several years the number of states introducing and enacting legislation for renewable portfolio standards has expanded exponentially.” That state interest has translated into a strong business cycle for renewable energy and acted as a catalyst for its increasing presence in the US market. Not only does combing all the renewable energy options in one place demonstrate this growth and expansion to the mainstream but the show is also a perfect place for consumers or aficionados to see all the clean energy solutions all in one place. “Many attendees don’t have the time or the money to get to all sorts of different conferences for different technologies,” said Tom Weirich, a marketing consultant for ACORE. “This puts the exhibitors all under one roof.” And that one roof can go beyond benefiting attendees but to exhibitors that are not solely focused in one technology area. “We cross over on technologies so this is perfect for us,” said PGRE exhibitor Gene Hunt, with Beacon power which manufactures both grid-tie inverters for the solar PV market and manufactures large-scale, fly-wheel-based energy storage systems for the industrial electric utility market. Countries looking to enter the promising US renewable energy market have also found value in the all-encompassing nature of the trade show. The UK, for example, is presenting a variety of different companies all in one large booth they’re calling the UK Trade Pavilion. Many agree the US market has barely even begun to tap into its renewable energy potential but if the growth of ACORE’s broad technology conference is any indication, the trend is very promising. “One of ACORE’s stated goals was to move into the mainstream, but we’re no longer moving into the mainstream, we’re already there,” said the event’s co-chair Brian Schimmoller, Managing Editor, Power Engineering magazine as he presented his opening remarks on Wednesday. “We’ve moved beyond the R & D stage and are now grappling with a flowering market.”
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