We just got back from the Intersolar show on Friday and what an amazing experience it was to see the scale of solar energy industry. More than 1,400 manufacturers, suppliers, dealers and service providers from all over the world were exhibiting there in nine giant halls with over 100,000 square meters of exhibition space and an estimated 60,000 visitors.
Overall it went very well apart from one self-induced glitch on the way home. I had left my passport on the plane I arrived on on Tuesday and did not realise it until we were travelling back to the airport. When I got there I found out that it had been handed in to the airport police and so I had to run from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2 to collect it from the Police station there and then run back again to make the plane.
My overall impression was of an industry in slight panic at the drop-off in investment in the clean energy sector. Overall investment has collapsed to just $13.3 billion in the first quarter of 2009, down by 44% on the fourth quarter of last year and 53% below the level achieved in the first quarter of 2008.
This was all due to two main factors, severe shortage of bank finance, and overall lack of stock market confidence leading to a paltry contribution of only $100 million by stock market investors in clean energy companies. There is light at the end of the tunnel with $150 billion in stimulus spending around the world being earmarked for clean energy, but that is only just starting to flow into the market now.
Talking to some of the solar thermal and pv manufactureres they all talked about not even considering orders of less than 1 MW whereas now they would talk to buyers with orders of as little as 5 kW.
This makes me feel even more optimistic about our plans with PretaSol to introduce solar thermal leasing, and solar pv leasing to the consumer market because this is really a new revenue stream for the renewable energy industry. Relying less on large scale investment and more on small consumer loans to finance the purchases. The banks are happy to do it as it less risk for them and homeowners are happy because they can save on their energy bills.
The idea of opening a renewable energy shop has developed over the last couple of days after seeing the diversity and quality of renewable energy products on offer for the consumer market including devices such as phone chargers and solar garden furniture. I’ll keep you posted on how that one develops.
Some interesting stats from round the web around the solar thermal industry were released just ahead of the show by the European Solar Thermal Industry Federations (ESTIF).
Solar thermal heating and cooling solutions gained favour in more and more countries in 2008.
The biggest push came from the German market, which more than doubled in 2008, but the demand for solar thermal technology also increased strongly in smaller markets such as Ireland, Poland and Portugal.
According to the ESTIF publication, Austria continues to lead contitental Europe in per-capita numbers. With a total capacity in operation of 273 kWth per 1000 inhabitants, it trails only world champion Cyprus, which reached 623 kWth per 1000 inhabitants at the end of 2008.
Austria alone installed more new capacity (29 kWth per 1000 inhabitants) that high-potential countries sucha s Spain, Italy or France installed over the past 20 years.
The European turnover in solar thermal products passed the €3 billion mark in 2008.
I’ll post more about some of the news from Intersolar 2009.
If any of you were at the show it would be really good to hear your news and views from the show.