Carly Simon's song “Anticipation” was stuck on mental replay in my mind as Dan Ashenden, publisher of Radiant Living, Green Mechanical and Contractor magazines, and I parked the rental car in a parking garage a few blocks away from the Solar Power Intl. trade show recently held in San Diego.
In the parking garage elevator, we met David Walters, CEO of PAHIO Development Inc. (www.mypahio.com/PAHIO-Development-Company.html), who was also headed to the show. Walters was meeting with his architects, builder and several sub-contractors (that were all flying in from Hawaii) at the show to explore how they could incorporate eco-friendly solar power, both thermal and PV, into PAHIO's existing and planned resort projects.
Once we entered the trade show exhibit hall, I noticed that the aisles were packed with crowds engaged in lively conversation. Every booth was overflowing with attendees and exhibitors while onlookers hung on every word exchanged. Tables interspersed throughout the hall where intense conversations were in progress, giving proof that attendees and exhibitors were serious about taking and giving away more than just literature. Think of a very animated party, and you've captured the noise and enthusiasm level that was at the show. It was tough to get a word in edgewise, so I began to read the names and titles listed on exhibitor and attendee badges while listening to their conversations.
An unretired president
We first checked out the solar powered golf cars on display and talked with Ken Chester, president of Cruise Car Inc. (www.cruisecarinc.com). “Several of our solar cars were requested by the University of Mississippi for use in transporting candidates in the first Presidential debate,” said Chester with obvious pride.
When asked how he came up with this idea, Chester responded, “I'd retired for the fourth time and moved to Florida. We were on the 16th hole of a golf course, and the cart ran out of power. As we were walking back to the clubhouse, a long walk in hot, humid weather, it struck me: we're in the sunshine state and I'm walking? If we'd had a solar-powered cart, we'd be riding and enjoying a round of golf instead of being drenched in sweat. I'm unretired to start up this business!”
While listening in on a conversation between Michael Stough, marketing coordinator at Heliodyne (www.heliodyne.com), and Jeff M. Meyerson, I noticed Meyerson's badge included the title attorney-at-law. Was he here to dig up dirt on a poorly installed solar system to aid in prosecuting someone, thinking of class-action lawsuits or working some angle to find ways to pursue lawsuits related to all things solar?
“I'm here to learn all I can about solar power because I'm starting a solar installation company,” was his matter-of-fact reply. Meyerson's law firm (www.themeyersonlawfirm.com) is no slouch where lucrative cases are concerned, and he is obviously a bright, intelligent and persuasive fellow, which bodes well as an indicator that solar system companies are evolving into mainstream businesses that hold promise for being highly profitable.
Next we encountered Ashley Henry, energy industry liaison at Stoel Rives LLP (www.stoel.com), and Randy Foster, partner at Stoel Rives, working the law firm's booth in the center of the show floor. The firm specializes in renewable energy systems, intellectual property rights and interconnection agreements for wind and solar.
After talking to the many law professionals present at the solar show, Dan and I left the trade show to have lunch. We headed to the Gas Light District for some Italian cuisine. Seated at the table next to us at the restaurant was a woman studying a Solar Power exhibition hall diagram — no doubt, she was planning out her afternoon booth visits to maximize her solar experience. It turned out that our neighbor at the next table was Ruth Cerdan, a lawyer from Mexico interested in starting up a solar company!
A retired businessman
Joseph Kozicki, an outdoor solar-tracking exhibitor and previously retired businessman who is now president of Solar Products LLC (www.aasolarproducts.com), proudly showcased a unique PV solar panel at the show. The PV-panel was constructed in prison via a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Prison's Eric Peipert, product manager for the Electronics Business Group.
“Renewable energy and the growing green economy with all of its promise for lowering dependence on fossil fuels and creating new jobs cannot just be for the wealthy or those who can afford the cost to have them installed — it must include all segments of society or it will be doomed to repeat the failure we witnessed in the 1980s,” said Kozicki.
Other professionals at the show
Midori Santos, senior manager of sales operations at Sharp Electronics Corp. (www.sharpusa.com), was delighted with the daily children's teaching program run in the spacious Sharp booth. Each day, children were bussed in for a Solar Academy. The company also runs a Solar Academy program at its Suffron, N.Y., facility and has a scheduled video teleconference to link U.S. and Asian school children, so they can freely exchange solar ideas and foster friendships.
“The children are quick to grasp and accept solar,” said Santos. “We're not just planting seeds of knowledge about renewable energy for the distant future; we have been doing this long enough to witness the children passing on their new-found knowledge to their parents who then respond by purchasing and installing solar systems.”
After chatting with Midori, I ran into David Woycio, president of Metro Solar Inc. (www.metro-solar.com), good friend and fellow contractor, in the Viessmann booth. He is a dedicated solar enthusiast who believes in giving back to the industry. Woycio served on the Solar Energy Industry Association's local chapter's board of directors for over one year and has been serving on the national board for the past year. I talked to him regarding thermal vs. PV for domestic hot water.
“You're looking at 75% thermal- vs. 15% PV-efficiency and meterable (watts) energy vs. Btu's harvested,” said Woycio. “This industry must work towards tying measurable performance to credits or incentives, and we should be subsidizing manufacturers to lower costs to consumers instead of giving the consumers who can afford solar all the breaks.”
While visiting Viessmann's crowded booth, Horacio Manfrini, director at Laiken, and his daughter and business partner, Lucila, at Laiken (www.laiken.com.ar) explained their interest in solar thermal systems while admiring a Viessmann vacuum tube solar array.
“Our business deals with offshore oil and gas rigs,” commented Horacio Manfrini. “Solar is a never-ending source of power we intend to capture to expand our business.” Lucila indicated her father was extremely resourceful and was in the process of deciding if they should purchase existing solar products or build their own factory to make solar products custom-tailored for their customers.
Vice President James McCusker at ICR (www.icrinc.com) demonstrated an artistic solar tree with such enthusiasm that I decided to get his badge story too. He was a political science major with double minors in history and communication. He had worked as a CBS page on “The David Letterman Show” and moved up to the national news desk when he was smitten by the solar bug!
After meeting a variety of people with different backgrounds and careers at the show, I decided to chat with the folks at Fat Spaniel Technology's booth to gather information for next year's Solar Power Intl. show in San Jose, Calif. Now a new song was stuck on my mental replay: “Do you know the way to San Jose.“
Dave Yates owns F.W. Behler, a contracting company in York, Pa. He can be reached by phone at 717/843-4920 or by e-mail at Dave.Yates@fwbehler.com.
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