San Diego — Thousands of people from around the world attended Solar Power International, the largest solar energy industry event in the Americas, held here Oct. 13-17. Presented by Solar Electric Power Association and Solar Energy Industries Association, Solar Power International ‘08 began just days after the U.S. Congress passed the most significant federal policy ever enacted to support the solar energy industry - an eight-year extension of the federal investment tax credit for solar energy, and the elimination of both the residential cap for residential systems and the utility exemption.
Dan Ashenden, publisher of CONTRACTOR and Green Mechanical Contractor magazines, and Dave Yates, a plumbing columnist for CONTRACTOR magazine, recently attended the exposition. There were 425 trade show booths displaying a full array of products and technology available for solar thermal and PV systems.
More than 17,000 people actively involved in the solar industry were pre-registered to attend the event, which was closed to the general public except for Wednesday evening when the public was admitted for free. Twenty percent of pre-registered attendees were from foreign countries, which reflects the emerging leadership of U.S.-based solar products in the world's economy.
Solar Energy Industries Association President Rhone Resh noted that solar is one of the brightest spots in the current global economic crisis and how solar continues to defy market trends with rapid growth and is expected to generate 440,000 new jobs over the next few years while pouring $325 billion of investments into the U.S. economy. Twenty-eight gigaWatts of power - enough to supply all of the electrical needs for 7 million homes - is anticipated.
Concurrent to the trade show, a series of vibrant and educational seminars offered information-packed talks led by industry leaders and notable speakers. General Wesley Clark was the keynote speaker for Tuesday morning's grand opening ceremony. Clark spoke about his involvement with a 10,000 solar-home initiative for the rebuilding of New Orleans and our need to incorporate solar for low income housing.
Julia Hamm, chairman of the conference, outlined how far solar has come in just the past five years that they have been holding Solar Power expositions.
“Just five years ago, we started with 60 exhibitors and had 1,100 attendees,” Hamm said. “This year, in spite of the economic downturn, we expanded the size of our exhibition and conference space by a factor of three. We have 425 exhibitors with another 450 on a waiting list and expect to have more than 20,000 attendees. Next year's Solar Power International in San Jose, Calif., will be much larger as we attempt to accommodate the ever-increasing interest in solar.”
Although the focus of Solar Power International is business-to-business interaction, the event this year reached out to consumers through a partnership with the nonprofit California Center for Sustainable Energy. Solar Power International ‘08 coincides with San Diego's annual Solar Energy Week, creating a comprehensive, week-long schedule addressing both professional and consumer solar interests. Activities for the public included a Public Night opening of the Solar Power International expo floor on the evening of Oct. 15, and the Tour of Solar Homes on Oct. 18. More than 5,000 people attended the expo during the three hour Public Night, bringing the grand total of attendees to more than 23,000 participants. San Diego Gas & Electric, the Utility Host sponsor for Solar Power International, promoted Solar Energy Week activities to both its commercial and residential customers.
Additional information about the conference and exposition is available at www.solarpowerinternational.com.
Established in 1974, Solar Energy Industries Association is the national trade association of more than 750 solar energy manufacturers, project developers, distributors, contractors, installers, architects, consultants and financiers.