Philip M. DeVita, CCMDirector, Air Quality
Phil DeVita is the Director of Air Quality at HMMH. His decades of experience and vast technical knowledge encompass aviation, railway…
Steve Barrett and I just returned from the 2010 Solar Power International (SPI) Conference in Los Angeles. This is the premier international solar conference where developers, manufacturers, investors, suppliers and installers gather to discuss all things solar. HMMH attended the conference promoting our recent siting feasibility efforts at Palm Beach International Airport along with assisting FAA in developing the forthcoming “Technical Guidance for Evaluating Selected Solar Technologies at Airports”. The guidance document will serve as the central reference for evaluating solar projects at airports and explores the potential benefits and costs of developing solar energy at these sites.
The conference was an international event with an estimated attendance of over 24,000 people, the highest attendance ever for SPI. The industry is celebrating the rapid growth in the US solar market highlighting successes such as job growth, lower photovoltaic panel costs, state renewable energy mandates, and increased power installments. Mr. Rhone Resch, President of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) highlighted some additional statistics including:
Even with these impressive statistics, there are some unknowns moving forward which could put a slight haze on the sunny outlook. The industry is hoping for the renewal of the investment tax credit and would greatly benefit from a national renewable energy standard and carbon tax or cap and trade program. Unfortunately, with the current state of politics in Washington, some of these incentives may not be addressed for a while. However, even with some of the challenges, the solar industry still looks very bright. Mr. Resch sees continued strong growth in the coming years and has challenged the industry with an aggressive goal of 10 gigawatts of installation (commercial and residential) by 2015!
Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter spoke about how the company was founded and his initial vision of Twitter as a social network to keep people informed and up to date. He spoke about Twitter’s evolving role from social networking into the business marketing arena to its most recent uses in providing up to date information during catastrophic events such as the earthquake in Haiti and the Chilean miners’ crisis. He spoke of how Twitter will continue to evolve beyond its current applications. There is a lot of synergy between Twitter and the solar industry in that both are in their infancy and continuing to evolve and adapt to market demands.
Secretary Ken Salazar gave a presentation of the status of renewable energy projects on federal lands and the commitment of the Department of the Interior (DOI) towards renewable energy projects in the future. He highlighted the first offshore lease agreement awarded to the Cape Wind project off the coast of Massachusetts along with DOI’s recent commitment to 2,000 renewable energy projects including solar, geothermal, wind and solar thermal projects on federal lands. He also signed the Record of Decision at the conference for the 60 MW Silver State North Solar Project in Nevada which is the first ever solar project approved on federal land. The Secretary also spoke about the 24 solar energy zones which were identified by DOI as areas for future solar development. The identification of the solar energy zones will provide an efficient process for permitting and siting responsible solar projects on federal land. Secretary Salazar did highlight some obstacles that still remain such as transmission and siting new transmission lines on public land. He did indicate that the agency has removed some of the regulatory uncertainty since he came into office and feels the implementation of the Fast Track Process along with the solar energy zones should provide some regulatory certainty to developers.
The final day of the conference provided an entertaining exchange between Democrat James Carville and Republican Mary Matalin on their perspectives on the mid term election and the renewable energy market. They do not agree too much on politics but they do agree that renewable energy, including solar makes good economic sense. They both agreed the renewable energy market is very viable and could help the economy come out this recession by continuing to grow the market sector and provide jobs.
What I took away from the conference was that the solar market looks very bright and is one of the few market sectors expected to experience growth in the commercial and residential sector. With all the gloomy statistics about the economy presented on television and in the newspapers, it was refreshing to be part of an energetic market sector with hope and optimism.
That’s about it from Los Angeles; see you next year in Dallas, TX.