According to polls, 50% of all Germans would prefer to live in Munich, and it is not difficult to see why: southern flair and climate, beautiful architecture, proximity of the alps and lots of high quality work opportunities. It was Munich that hosted the Intersolar 2014, the world’s largest exhibition for the solar industry. It took us six hours to merely walk along the booths, distributed over eight large halls, just to get a first impression and select those companies for more detailed attention.
The themes were: solar panels, electricity storage, mounting materials and thermal solar. The rapidly growing market for solar panels these days…
…is nearly completely dominated by Chinese manufacturers and that was clear for all to see in Munich. In stark contrast, the European market for thermal solar is shrinking, which was reflected in the number of manufacturers for each branch of solar industry: mostly photo-voltaic panels, a few thermal panels, hardly any CSP.
Intersolar Awards were handed out to innovative companies in photovoltaics and solar projects, as well as in the field of electricity storage.
To highlight a few innovations presented at the exhibition:
Solar light can be absorbed by a surface, designed to that purpose for almost 100%. An average solar photo-voltaic panel can convert some 15% of that energy into electricity, the remaining 85% is necessarily wasted. Or is it? Why not use that solar thermal energy as well, using the same scarce roof area? That’s where this Italian hybrid panel comes in.
Usually solar panels are mounted on existing roofs, which is not always aesthetically pleasing. If solar panels are the future, why not integrate them into the architectural design from the start: solar panel = roof.
Here a solution where a roof tile and thermal solar collector are one and the same.
Country booth count from the exhibitor list:
United Kingdom 19
Czech Republic 7
From these figures it is obvious to see where the solar revolution is taking place: Europe (read: Germany) and China:
North America: 25
Obviously these figures are distorted by the circumstance that the exhibition was held in Germany. What these figures do reveal though, is that North America is severely lagging behind China and that Japan is nowhere to be seen.
Conclusion: renewable energy innovation is happening in Europe, centered around Germany and that China is a good second as a low wage production champion.