BLOG: Industry Trends from Solar Power Southeast
By Greg Peterson, CEO, ReNew Petra
Last week ReNew Petra attended the regional solar industry conference, Solar Power Southeast, held in Atlanta, GA. Companies from all over the region attended showcasing their technology, services, and expertise. Our booth showcased our expanded development, EPC, and operations and maintenance (O&M) services. ReNew Petra currently owns and operates about 70 MW of solar, primarily utility scale installations, and provides O&M services to third parties.
Besides those companies in the exhibit hall, the conference featured a robust agenda with sessions on topics such as: energy storage, community solar, solar policy, and the industry outlook for the majority of states across the southeast region. There was much discussion about where the industry was headed, lessons learned from the past, and what new technologies and policies are driving the future.
Below are a few of the major themes we saw throughout the exhibit hall and as part of the conference educational sessions.
Storage. Storage. Storage.
Storage has long been a topic associated with solar, but the discussion continues to grow in importance and immediacy. It is an accepted fact that the large-scale adoption of solar must eventually include a storage solution. Now that the energy storage industry has matured, best practices for utility interconnections, fees, and technical requirements are top of mind. Solutions to these issues will require close collaboration between the solar providers, utilities, and product manufacturers.
Conversation around storage also includes how energy storage will help the solar industry grow to its full potential. That brings us to the next industry trend: solar is still growing.
Yes, the solar industry is still growing
Although we’ve seen drops in job rates and installations in the last couple years, there is no doubt that the solar industry is still in its teenage years —growing quickly and somewhat unpredictably. The robust attendance at the conference is an indication that the industry is on an upswing and that the industry is poised to increase in the coming years. This is even more apparent through initiatives like SEIA’s “The Solar Decade”, dedicated to growing solar to 30 percent of U.S. energy generation by 2030. This is an aggressive goal with current generation being closer to 6 percent. So how does the industry think we can get there? That’s trend number three: diversity.
Diversity is key
Diversity is a major focus this year for the solar industry. According to the conference hosting organizations, SEIA and SEPA, the number of solar jobs has nearly tripled in the past seven years. However, this increase has gone hand-in-hand with shortages of skilled employees, and women and minorities continue to face difficulty entering the industry. The industry needs to increase training and inclusion to meet the growing demand for jobs in the near future. If we do not obtain the workforce to support the growth of solar, then the industry is destined to stall.