Solar Power International: Off to a good start

Oliver Janssen, CEO of eIQ Energy, blogs from this week’s Solar Power International show in Los Angeles, where there’s some buzz about a possible watershed moment for the balance-of-systems (BoS) sector of the solar industry.

by Oliver Janssen, CEO, eIQ Energy

Monday, October 11, 2010 The night before the kickoff of this week’s Solar Power International (SPI), a lovely, sunny Southern California evening, found us sitting in a nice hotel lobby with casual but energetic meetings taking place all around. It seems natural to think about the “Big Picture.” And recent news from the run-up to SPI suggests that we may be at a watershed moment for the balance-of-systems (BOS) sector of the solar industry.

Modules are, of course, the glamorous hardware; they’re visible, made with quickly evolving technology, and can transform light into energy. Inverters are the muscle, making the connection to the grid with utility-grade performance and reliability.

lectrical balance of system is traditionally a catchall, for good reason — it’s made up of a bunch of relatively small pieces that have traditionally been selected piecemeal. It’s important to remember, though, that including installation labor costs, BOS is fully twice as large a market as inverters. And, perhaps more importantly, BOS is full of opportunity for cost reductions — and that’s why a watershed may be at hand.

Consider some of the news from the last few weeks. BOS companies coming out of stealth mode, new venture investments in power optimizer companies, and several integration deals between BOS companies and module and inverter makers. What we’re seeing is a broad integration of the currently fragmented BOS market. My sense is that we will see a great deal of aggregation happening from this point forward.

There’s really no reason why array designers and contractors should have to make individual choices on these and other BOS components. In fact, there’s every reason to think that an integrated approach can increase array performance, simplify installation, and save money as suppliers seek new efficiencies and eliminate duplicated effort.

This is one of the big trends I’ll be watching for and asking about during the show this week, and in the months to come. And if you’re an investor, designer, or installer, it will probably hold interest for you as well.

More to come tomorrow as the show itself gets started. For now, I’m off to enjoy more spirited discussions.

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