Which solar techologies are big in the market?

I am interested in a sales/marketing career in solar (photovoltaics). What are your views on the technologies that will emerge into the market place that will show the quantum leap in competitiveness that is required for solar to be less dependent on subsidies? Where are the potential market breakthroughs coming from? Are they close or already here? Richard S.

Richard, There have been many substantive reports on photovoltaics, and breakthroughs seem to be announced every week. But after my 15 years running the solar trade association, I’ve come to believe that there simply is no silver bullet. First we must remember the photovoltaic product is only 40 percent of a system. So breakthroughs in mounting and mounting arrays, framing or frameless; and interconnection equipment may have a greater impact on the overall first-cost to the consumer. Xantrex Technologies has come out with their new GT 3.0 grid tie inverter with a 5-year warranty (that can be increased to 10 years), and that is one step in the right direction in the “balance of systems” department. In photovoltaic materials silicon is still the workhorse. Approaches to overcome technological hurdles, such as in automated manufacturing and applying thin film photovoltaic materials of all combinations on substrates, all show promise. Clearly Shell Solar, Sharp Solar, BP Solar, Evergreen Solar, and RWE Schott are ramping up the size of their manufacturing plants; as are thin film companies like UniSolar (ECD) and First Solar, and the smaller manufacturers like Global Solar and Iowa Thin Films. Nanotechnology holds promise, and with Konarka Technologies poised to have the first commercial pilot plant, we should see many new applications and economics of photovoltaics. But aside from the manufactures and the component suppliers, proven system integrators such as World Water and Power, Kyocera Solar and Powerlight, as well as newcomers such as SkyBuilt Power and Sacred Power, may be the best demonstrators of market power. New products that are easier to integrate, such as UniSolar’s peel and stick modules for metal-seamed roofs and their product tied to SIT’s membrane roofing material or Shell Solar’s “Quick Deploy” units on metal skids, hold another marketing pathway. There are too many companies and technologies to name all of them here, and the subject is too broad and market development happening too fast to do justice to this topic in a column. But there will be many successful pathways for the commercialization of photovoltaics tied to buildings, other components and systems, integrated with other distributed generation and energy efficiency products, as well as new materials and manufacturing. The industry offers a great challenge and adventure for anyone with vision, perseverance and an entrepreneurial spirit. Scott
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Scott, founder and president of The Stella Group, Ltd., in Washington, DC, is the Chair of the Steering Committee of the Sustainable Energy Coalition and serves on the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, and The Solar Foundation. The Stella Group, Ltd., a strategic marketing and policy firm for clean distributed energy users and companies using renewable energy, energy efficiency and storage. Sklar is an Adjunct Professor at The George Washington University teaching two unique interdisciplinary courses on sustainable energy, and is an Affiliated Professor of CATIE, the graduate university based in Costa Rica. . On June 19, 2014, Scott Sklar was awarded the prestigious The Charles Greely Abbot Award by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) and on April 26, 2014 was awarded the Green Patriot Award by George Mason University in Virginia.

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