The evolving technology for connecting EVs to home solar systems with battery storage is expected to be a key driver of growth in attendance and exhibition at the Intersolar North America trade show, being held for the first time under new ownership this week in San Diego.
“EV technology, paired with solar+storage, is now at a stage similar to that where storage was five years ago, within the expanding solar energy industry. There is a lot to be learned about the grid take on this additional load, about charging infrastructure, and other factors, so we want to lead with this type of content at the conference; in 2021 you can expect a lot more EV and storage content,” says Wes Doane, the event director of ISNA2020, for host Diversified Communications, based in Portland, ME.
Apart from EV technology per se, ISNA recognizes and is fostering other sophisticated evolutionary trends in the US solar industry, like microgrids. “We are seeing more and more microgrid software energy management companies come to the show, with direct ties to PV+battery storage. A lot of these companies are looking for more partnerships with manufacturers,” says Doane.
The signature California-based solar trade show is being held this year in San Diego rather than San Francisco, it habitual venue under the past German-based hosts of the show. The timing of the show has also changed to February, rather than the summer, to distance the show from the competing Solar Power International show, held in September, most recently in Las Vegas.
One major reason cited for the move from San Francisco to San Diego is cost. Hotels, restaurants, union help, and other factors discouraged many companies from attending both ISNA and SPI in the same year. The Convention Center in San Diego, an architectural wonder of cantilevered supports, guide wires, and vaulted tent ceilings, complete with light rail transportation connections, make it a winning venue.
Diversified had been seeking an alternative energy show for some time before the InterSolar North America opportunity arose, says Doane. The family-owned parent company owns a 1.5 megawatt solar farm in Maine, is a staunch supporter of environmental causes, and operates divisions in Canada, the UK, Australia, and Hong Kong, as well. The group lists 131 hosted trade shows on its website.
“Intersolar NA has been held in California since 2008, and California continues to be the largest solar state in the country, so that factors into a lot of California attendance, so staying here makes sense. We’ll be in Long Beach next year from January 12-14, and stay in California through 2021. We are not closed off to the idea of rotating the show out of state, but if it were moved, that would be driven by the solar policy in the given state,” says Doane.
The geographic spread of attendees at ISNA closely resembles a map of the Top 10 solar state markets, but it also pulls some international attendees, particularly from Mexico, a key international market.
ISNA 2020 is not yet predicting attendance or exhibition numbers, but is bullish on future growth. “Our goal is to reflect the solar industry, so there will be more exhibitors and content around EVs, the way they tie into the grid, and the way that PV ties in — these are the three legs of our growth.” says Doane. While attendance and exhibition numbers at ISNA flagged in prior years in San Francisco, the new hosts hope to recapture the kinds of numbers achieved in 2007 and 2008 — including 14,000 attendees, he said.
One new feature of the ISNA2020 show is the unveiling of the Solar Games, which involves teams of installers from around the country competing to install a solar+storage system in the least time. The task is facilitated by the best tech design, which will also be on display. “The equipment providers are the sponsors, which like to go in the direction of trying new things, which will let attendees have some fun, as well” says Doane.
Cost is also a factor the new ISNA hosts are grappling with. “For me a really big piece of what we are trying to do is develop an ease of doing business with us, so we want to be as flexible as we can. Let’s face it, exhibiting is a big investment. so we need to be really competitive on pricing as well as on delivering value, including high touch client access,” Doane says.
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