5th Intersolar in San Francisco: Records, insolvencies and promising local solutions
Enlarge image Signing the MoU: NREL Director Dan Arvizu (left) and Fraunhofer ISE Director Eicke Weber (right) (© germany.info) Promising forecasts, encouraging records, and inspiring local solutions mixed with harsh global competition, headlines of insolvencies, and slow progress in international politics set the stage for this year’s Intersolar North America in San Francisco. From July 9-12 the fair attracted 760 exhibitors, 22000 visitors and 1600 conference attendees.
The Honorable Mayors of San Francisco, Ed Lee, and Freiburg (Germany), Dr. Dieter Salomon, officially welcomed the attendees and emphasized the respective local achievements in the promotion of renewable energy and the importance of the new jobs created in the clean tech sector. Concluding the opening ceremony, the directors of three leading solar research institutions, the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the Japanese National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) and the German Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (Fraunhofer ISE), signed a Memorandum of Understanding to give solar research institutions a global voice in the new so-called Global Alliance of Solar Energy Research Institutes (GA-SERI). The participating institutes will each send two researchers to the other two members of the alliance to intensify research collaborations and the exchange of ideas.
Never before has solar technology been so close to provide us with electricity for a price that is competitive with conventional fossil fuel-derived electricity. Germany already achieved grid parity, the point at which solar electricity costs no more than conventional electricity, and set a stunning new solar electricity production record of 22 GW last month – roughly the equivalent to 20 nuclear power plants or about a quarter of the country’s peak demand. Yet, overproduction and falling prices caused prominent solar panel manufacturers to file for insolvency this spring. Also in the US the Solyndra case and the decision of the Commerce Department to impose high tariffs on solar panels imported from China made headlines. Enlarge image Signing the MoU: AIST Director Michio Kondo (left) and NREL Director Dan Arvizu (right) (© germany.info) In these controversial times, it is the pragmatic local solutions which promote renewable energy at the level of the municipality that send an unequivocal positive message. Among many others, the Cities of Freiburg (Germany) and San Francisco are shining examples of how the transition to a low carbon, sustainable future can progress at the local level. Both cities have set far more ambitious targets – and already exceeded them – in renewable energy production, energy efficiency and reduction of green house gas emissions than their respective federal and state governments. Both cities also boost an impressive cluster of clean tech companies and are actively trying to attract more. Green tourism brings 25,000 visitors to Freiburg every year not because it is a beautiful German city near the black forest, but because they are interested in the sustainable solutions that Freiburg’s citizens enjoy.