Intersolar North America

[San Francisco, California USA]

Observing the obvious.

I managed to spend some time at Intersolar North America 2009 this week in San Francisco.

Applied Materials, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMAT)

From Intersolar North America

The big news was US President Barack Obama somehow finding the time to visit Applied Materials before the Major League Baseball 2009 All-Star Game in St. Louis, Missouri. A crowd formed to understand how AMAT is driving down cost per watt.

From Intersolar North America

Solyndra, Inc.
I noticed Michael Kanellos take a cameraperson over to the Satcon stand to video the Solyndra panel shown in “At Intersolar: The Elusive Solyndra Solar Panel”. When I saw the quality, I knew it was still worth posting my own point and shoot efforts. I have great respect for photographers taking product shots of photovoltaic modules. My number one rule is not to be in the reflection.

A Tale of Two Publications
There have been numerous new solar and photovoltaic (PV) media publications over the past year and a half attempting to capitalize on PV industry growth. I first noticed two such publications at the inaugural Intersolar North America last year: SolarPro and Solar Industry Magazine.

From Intersolar North America

Best new solar publication:
SolarPro Magazine

The About SolarPro webpage defines the magazine as:

SolarPro is a high-quality technical publication available by free subscription to qualifying solar industry professionals. These are the people who are making solar happen—and no other publication gives them the nuts-and-bolts information they need.

Created by the professionals at Home Power magazine, it is no wonder they get the PV industry. I had to appeal to a contact to get my free online subscription.

From Intersolar North America

Worst (new or otherwise) solar publication:
Solar Industry Magazine

Anyone who saw or voted in my second PV Poll, How do you rate the “Solar Industry” monthly trade magazine? already knows I don’t regard this publication with esteem. The format is best described as paraphrased press releases with voluminous advertising and an occasional article.

I might have remained indifferent to Solar Industry and their misguided advertisers until I saw the “California Collapse” editorial by Managing Editor Michael Bates. Commenting on a post by Eric Savitz in the Barron’s Tech Trader Daily Blog, Mr. Bates said:

The data contained there evidently provided Savitz with Fodder, and data doesn’t lie – even if some bloggers do.

Well, a significant number of bloggers are more concerned about their content than their advertising sales staff. A point I hope Solar Industry Magazine and Mr. Bates will take to heart. And Mr. Savitz generates more original content in a day than Solar Industry Magazine does in a month.

My free subscription to Solar Industry Magazine has continued even though I have never renewed it. Is a circulation audit in order?

From Intersolar North America

SolFocus vs. Concentrix Solar
There was no competition here at all. Concentrix Solar had a stand at the exhibition to promote their CPV (Concentrating PhotoVoltaic) solutions while SolFocus opted to only participate in the conference. Concentrix Solar Chief Operating Officer (COO) Karl Friedrich Haarburger told me the company is targeting 500 kW (kiloWatt) to 1 MW (MegaWatt) CPV opportunities in the US market this year.

From Intersolar North America

Watching SolFocus’ Nancy Hartsoch as GreenVolts Chairman Bob Cart presented a CPV System Equivalent Cost slide in the session, Photovoltaic Technology (3), 2. Large-Scale PV Power Plants & Concentrating PV. I don’t believe GreenVolts, Inc. is a member of the CPV Consortium.

From Intersolar North America

Will the real SolarMagic (Solar Magic) please stand up?
The National Semiconductor Corporation (NYSE:NSM) legal team was set a twitter by the Heze Solar Magic Co. Ltd. stand promoting solar water heater products. It was unclear if this was a trademark violation since the product space may be distinct.

I did attend the first @Intersolar tweetup on Wednesday evening organized by Deep Patel of Blog fame. I met twitter following / followers, new folks, and a tweeter from Solar Industry Magazine. Oops.


  1. Kevin Christy says:

    Parity with CdTe and C-Si is not good enough for new technologies in a market of supply abundance. I’d like to see success in all PV technology families, but HCPV has higher hurdles to clear than just producing a cost of energy that is comparable to technologies that are already widely deployed. And I’m just channelling the bankers here, so don’t shoot the messenger.

  2. Bob Cart says:

    Kevin, the point I made with that chart is missed when out of context. This is not a chart showing HCPV costs today. Instead, it is about equivalent costs when one factors in all the key differences in the cost of ownership. PV people get stuck on ASP of modules in a $/W basis when developers want LCOE, which is hard to compare easily. This chart makes a simplified comparison we call equivalent system cost which is the total cost of ownership and includes global versus direct irradiance, tracking, temperature and low light performance, operating costs, degradation, all margins, etc. The good news is it helps show goal that CPV capex can be higher to reach the same equivalent cost of ownership. The numbers provided for CdTe and c-Si were largely provided by the companies and I question them. Regardless, we used them and I just filled in the HCPV capex costs to reach the same prices. Your take away should be that with HCPV there is more opportunity for developer margins for the same equivalent cost. HCPV cost is dropping at a much faster pace than PV. The good news is that all it has to do to be competitive is be in this zone to be in the money. The deployment risk is much greater due to lack of significant deployments, but developers choosing HCPV will enjoy greater returns on HCPV which will help overcome near term risks. Long term, you just won’t use other PV technologies in hot sunny areas.


  3. Kevin Christy says:

    Thanks for the response, Bob. I think that you have dialed in to the most important metric, which is financeable LCOE. Like I implied above, I’m hopeful that HCPV crosses the finish line.

  4. Because individuals have different preferences in terms of publications’ formats, I cannot take issue with your contempt for our news departments. The items are heavily copy-edited. Call it “paraphrased,” if you like. But we do so because readers have asked for comprehensive, yet condensed, coverage of items all along the supply chain.

    However, we publish much more than “an occasional article,” written in-house, by freelancers or by industry participants. I do take issue with THAT comment.

    As for “voluminous advertising”: Evidently, *someone* likes our format. Advertisers don’t advertise unless readers are reading. I assure you I’ve cast no spells.

    I wouldn’t take offense to your comments if I didn’t work so hard to produce this magazine every month. I appreciate your criticism, as well as your own work. And so far, you don’t seem to be a blogger who makes it a point to lie. 😉

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