Solar Power International 2009: Another Fantastic Show

Whew!  Just back from Solar Power International.  What a show it is! (The show doesn’t officially close until the end of the day today.) There are more than 900 exhibitors and more than 20,000 attendees expected.  The editors had every intention of blogging throughout the entire event but the sheer number of folks to interview, booths to visit and meetings to attend meant that every waking minute of the day was taken up absorbing the show, with no time left to write.  We have managed to put up some great videos, however.

It’s good to be back in the office where I can write. ::continue::

If you haven’t ever attended Solar Power International, you really should.  Not only because it’s the biggest b2b solar event in North America and not only because you could meet one of the editors (we do love to meet readers) but mostly to see how incredibly huge, organized and cutting edge the solar industry really is.

I went to the show to investigate solar education, outreach and training.  I was jumping off a recent Schott Solar industry report that said 93% of American’s support solar energy but only 12% feel fully informed about solar.  The report also said that 75% of Americans had no idea how they would even start if they wanted to  putt solar panels on their homes.  I wanted to know what the industry had to say about that and how they planned to teach the public.  I’ll have a full article on the topic in the next week or so, but here are some highlights.

Some companies are not doing much, relying on word-of-mouth marketing to attract new customers and yet still growing steadily.

Some, like Sanyo, have education programs in place that target school children, with retired educators drafting up lesson plans to teach kids about energy.  The company has built a Solar Ark in Japan, a museum made out of solar panels that serves to teach the community about solar.  Maybe they’ll build something like that in the U.S.

Other companies, like Firestone Energy Solutions are using an existing network to train building industry professionals about solar in hopes that they will pass on that education to residential and small business consumers.

On the utility front, PSEG told me about how it is starting to implement its Solar4All program in New Jersey, one that will surely gain visibility for solar. The utility is putting up 200,000 panels on utility poles throughout the state.

I also talked to Rhone Resch of SEIA about the need for an industry-wide solar energy advertising campaign.  He also told me how solar companies could reach out to their communities through some easy mechanisms, like sponsoring Little League teams.

The other great thing about going to industry trade shows is that I get to meet some of our regular contributors — folks I email regularly — in person.  At SPI, I finally had a chance to sit down with Jennifer Kho, Isabelle Christensen, Tor Valenza AKA Solar Fred and even Renewable Energy World magazine Associate Editor David Appleyard, whom I had never met face to face. 

Of course there are many, many more folks that I met and spoke with.

Stay tuned to for more videos, podcasts, blogs and feature stories about all the happenings at the show.  We still need a day or two to catch our breath, but you can be sure that if you missed Solar Power International this year, we’ll bring as much of it as we possibly can right to you.


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Jennifer Runyon has been studying and reporting about the world's transition to clean energy since 2007. As editor of the world's largest renewable energy publication, Renewable Energy World, she observed, interviewed experts about, and reported on major clean energy milestones including Germany's explosive growth of solar PV, the formation and development of the U.S. onshore wind industry, the U.K. offshore wind boom, China's solar manufacturing dominance, the rise of energy storage, the changing landscape for utilities and grid operators and much, much, more. Today, in addition to managing content on POWERGRID International, she also serves as the conference advisory committee chair for DISTRIBUTECH, a globally recognized conference for the transmission and distribution industry. You can reach her at

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