Observations from Intersolar America 2012 0

Reporting from Intersolar in San Francisco, a large solar show, in a shaky solar market.

Attendance is strong and the mood is upbeat at this conference, considering the headwinds against the U.S. solar industry (1603 expiration, trade tariff, NJ and CA support mechanism issues).

Today kicked off with an analyst session led by GTM Research Director Shayle Kann which reviewed some of the findings of the U.S. Solar Market Insight report from Q1. Kann said that the U.S. market in 2012 will be 3.3 gigawatts and that the U.S. market will not shrink anytime in the next ten years. He also noted that the U.S. utility solar market has a nine-gigawatt project pipeline of projects in development with PPAs.

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Tom Starrs, the VP Market Development and Policy at SunPower, presented on Monday on the “U.S. PV Market and Support Mechanisms.” He cited a number of forecasts which had the U.S. market at between six and eight gigawatts by 2016. He also noted that 100,000 Americans are currently employed in the $6-billion-plus U.S. solar industry at 5,500 solar companies.

Starrs spoke of the 2012 federal election cycle and super PACs contributing tens of millions of dollars to anti-renewable energy campaigns (e.g., Americans for Prosperity spending $12.5 million on an anti-green jobs campaign with TV ads in key battle ground states). All this despite bipartisan polls which show that more than 70 percent of the American public still support government spending on renewable energy.

Starrs also said that net energy metering (NEM) continues to be a major market driver in 47 states and several U.S. territories, despite utilities stepping up attacks in an effort to constrain NEM — with the refrain that NEM shifts cost to low-income customers and contributes to grid integration challenges.

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