"It's Solar Christmas!" exclaimed my friend Nick as he eyed hundreds of booths in the Anaheim Convention Center. To a solar engineer like Nick, who religiously follows the latest trends in renewable and efficient energy, Solar Power International (SPI) is a clean-energy celebration so big that it just might make you feel giddy.
As an Aquion team member and general fan of our Earth, I have to agree. I was happy to coordinate our booth and presentations, and thrilled to get the opportunity to attend. And once the doors opened, my team and I spent the next three days talking and listening, explaining and learning, and making great connections with people who were just as excited about batteries as we are. Because when you meet someone who's excited about batteries, you know you're in good company.
The event is now over and we've left sunny SoCal for cool, crisp Pittsburgh, but some takeaways remain. And so, without further ado:
SPI Takeaway #1: Girls rule. And Women in Solar Energy made sure SPI attendees knew it. They used the event as an opportunity to connect women via social media, thanks to their #IamWISE campaign. They stopped by the Aquion booth and asked me to snap a selfie. I obviously obliged.
Fellow SPI attendee Rosana Francescato put together a fantastic and actionable post with her own takeaways about women in solar and the diversity efforts in and around SPI. It's a recommended read: Are Women Breaking the Solar Glass Ceiling?
SPI Takeaway #2: Selfie sticks? Not so much. While this blog post features not one but two selfie-stick photos, it's because I'm a selfie stick fan. I'm apparently alone in my fandom. Despite my best Twitter efforts, most visitors to the Aquion Energy booth were more interested in learning about our batteries than taking selfies.
I can't blame them -- our unique AHI chemistry is fascinating to people who are used to lead acid or lithium ion, or who assume that a battery containing water must be a flow battery. It's not! And we were happy to teach visitors about our batteries, show them footage of our Westmoreland manufacturing plant, give them a copy of our company brochure, and sign them up to receive a copy of our SPI presentation.
I was, at a minimum, able to talk the Aquion team into a selfie. So it wasn't a total loss.
A photo posted by Aquion Energy (@aquion_energy) on
SPI Takeaway #3: Energy storage is having a moment. According to the Washington Post, solar energy is growing very, very fast. It's just still not fast enough. Enter storage: the best way to expedite renewable energy. Even the most general energy conferences are beginning to dedicate entire sections of their expo hall to storage, and you'll hear over and over that it's the next big thing.
From my perspective on the ground at the event, the proof was in the foot traffic. The Energy Storage Walking Tour was by far the most popular at SPI, and Aquion Energy's VP of Product Management, Matthew Maroon, could barely project loudly enough to reach the huge crowd that stopped by the Aquion booth.
I know what you're thinking: of course a battery company would say that energy storage is hot. Fair enough. How about some data to prove it?
I reached out to the SPI conference organizers to see if they've observed a growth trend in energy storage presence at their event. Exhibition and Core Relationships Manager Brandon Kopp shared data on SPI exhibitors from 2014 and 2015 and plans for 2016, and I think we can safely say energy storage is The Next Big Thing:
The number of energy storage exhibitors is growing quickly, from 48 in 2014 to 79 in 2015, and 100 are expected in 2016. And their footprint on the floor is growing, too:
From 2,200 square feet of expo space for energy storage exhibitors in 2014 to a whopping 7,200 square feet of [sold out!] expo space for next year's event, energy storage is literally growing.
Maybe even more impressive, though, was the number of attendees who indicated they were interested in energy storage when they registered for SPI: 5,400. How does that compare to last year? It wasn't even a question on the survey. :)
While there are large events dedicated to storage, like EESAT and Energy Storage North America, Solar Power International, a more broad event, is quickly becoming one of the largest shows for the industry. And we're happy to see and be a part of that growth.
So there you have it. My top three takeaways from "Solar Christmas" 2015. You can count on the Aquion team having an even bigger presence at SPI 2016, where we're told there may be a fully off-grid live demonstration, batteries included. Maybe even our own. Until then, you can find us at events around the world.
Bonus takeaway: Garden Grove has amazing Korean food. I'll let this picture of the post-SPI Aquion team dinner do the talking.
A big thank you goes to Brandon Kopp of Solar Energy Trade Shows for providing data on SPI exhibitors and attendees. Thanks, Brandon!