Plus 5 positive takeaways from the solar industry’s largest conference
3 years ago Bodhi made our debut at SPI 2019 in Salt Lake City. We were in a tiny postage stamp of a booth in a secondary room off the main conference hall and at the end of a dead-end pathway. (I had misread the map thinking the doors next to our booth would be an entrance. They were not.) Boy was this year different.
There were over 27,000 attendees at this year’s RE+ in Anaheim. There were more exhibitors, more installers, and most importantly more innovation on the show floor than ever before.
The energy was infectious, business cards were flying, and claw machines were bringing joy to kids and adults alike! Whether you had been in the industry for years, or you were making your solar debut, it was a can’t miss event.
However, we must say we were still disappointed!!!
1. Where were the tiny solar panels???
We want mini solar panels! There was a lot of incredible solar innovation on display at RE+, but miniaturized solar and its applications clearly aren’t ready for the exhibit hall. While there isn’t a huge demand for smaller solar from installers or homeowners, we were still a little disappointed. After all, continued miniaturization of PV helps drive down the cost of solar and get it onto more people’s homes.
Plus, miniaturization is just cool. It unlocks new solar applications and allows people to potentially electrify even more of their lives as it expands into new technologies.
2. Where’s the 1kW solar panel???
Is it unreasonable that we want mini solar and ALSO really big solar? Because we admit we were also a little bummed to find out that the 1kW solar panel isn’t industry-ready. Though we saw several 500+W and even a few 700W panels, our Head of Business Development, Emmett, was disappointed that wattage per panel still isn’t breaking into four digits.
While a 1kW panel isn’t make or break for the industry, it is a helpful measuring stick for keeping track of panel innovation. Now that solar has reached the mainstream consumer, higher wattage panels are an important tool in helping homeowners achieve their energy goals. We’ll continue to wait and see who can be the first to deliver on this dream!
3. Why hasn’t floating solar reached the mainstream???
The potential impact of floating solar is huge. Nature found that “covering 10% of the world’s hydropower reservoirs with ‘floatovoltaics’ would install as much electrical capacity as is currently available for fossil-fuel power plants.” When deployed, floating solar projects have also received less pushback from conservations, farmers, and other groups.
Though next year’s RE+ will be hosted in the literal desert (hello Vegas!), we’re still hopeful that we’ll see more evidence of floatovoltaics in 2023.
In all seriousness though, RE+ was exhilarating. The optimism from all the attendees was contagious! Here are 5 main takeaways from RE+.
Across every event we attended, the Inflation Reduction Act was a key topic of conversation, with installers and industry leaders discussing how the IRA is going to impact individual businesses and broader solar adoption. Even though some of the exact details of incentives and qualifications are still to-be-determined, the big takeaway everyone can agree on is that the IRA is going to play a big role in the next 10 years of solar adoption.
As Abigail Hopper, President of SEIA, said at one breakfast:
“We won the IRA, and now we get to execute on it. We need to win the win.”
What does this mean for installers? In our opinion the mandate is clear: Make your voice heard at your local solar organizations, educate homeowners on the new bill, and get your operations in order so you can capitalize on this growth opportunity.
Fortunately, if the energy at RE+ is anything to go off of, we’re confident the industry is going to make the most of this new bill and use it to propel the mass adoption of solar. For those of you who still have questions on the Inflation Reduction Act, make sure to check out our webinar with Yoni Cohen from Sunlight Financial and Katherine Hamilton.
Across all sectors, people are expecting to see continued growth over the next year. Thanks to advancements in technology, historic investments from the government, and growing consumer support, solar is poised for a whole new scale of adoption. We heard from countless installers that they were projecting their best year yet, and there were plenty of third-party sales folks who were now ready to open their own installation business and get in on the action. While they may have been content to serve as a facilitator before, now they want to join the solar leaders in the space. It makes sense — this is the hottest the solar market has ever been.
To this point, companies that support solar installers and their business have also grown. There are even more software players in the space, and existing players are expanding their offerings. What this means is that solar installers no longer have to tackle operations or sales challenges on their own. Instead, they can turn to experts in UX/UI, software development, and customer experience (Ahem…Bodhi) to help them eliminate their logistical and communications pain points. Thanks to the growth in digital solar solutions, it’s now possible for installers to customize their solar software stack entirely to their individual business needs.
We were excited to see a wide variety of battery options and innovations at RE+. As anyone that reads the solar headlines will know, solar + storage has been making waves in the solar press for a while now. The hype was validated on the show floor.
From FWhome to LG ESS, there are so many great, reliable and flexible battery options now available to installers. If your solar business doesn’t currently install batteries, RE+ proved that now is the time to expand your offerings. Making some of these batteries a part of your business model is a great way to grow your average contract value, as well as increase lifetime customer value when offered post-install. It’s also a product that more consumers are going to consider a necessity for their PV system in the future. The benefits of full or partial home back-up are too great to ignore, especially when the government is now partially subsidizing their bill.
When it came to the batteries exhibited at RE+, we were particularly impressed by the examples we saw of module stacking batteries. These stackable batteries allow installers to finetune the amount of kW hours in a proposal, so that you can really lock into exactly what your solar customer needs. They also leave the door open for easier system upgrades in the future.
Overall, more battery players in the space means there is going to be more consolidation and lower costs — all of which are good market developments for solar installers.
While we didn’t see a lot of solar miniaturization or floatovoltaics, there were plenty of examples on the RE+ show floor of emerging solar applications. We saw more examples of solar carport options — for both residential and commercial — than in previous years. The popularity of the solar carport, the solar pergola, and other novel solar designs at the show should serve as an early indication to installers that homeowners are increasingly open to ambitious proposals. After all, the mass consumer cares about form and function.
We also spotted an actual solar car roof in the RE+ exhibit hall. This solar car roof enabled the car to charge itself while driving, bringing more versatility to EV ownership. While this is unlikely to become a common product offering for installers in the next year, we were excited to see the tech. With each novel application, we get closer to the dream of a solar-powered world.
We were surprised to see a few beloved consumer brands break into the solar industry this year at RE+. Both Duracell and Energizer were exhibiting at the conference and showcasing their new batteries. Whether their batteries stand up to some of the other favored industry brands is almost besides the point. Duracell and Energizers presences to us was a highlight to us purely because of what their arrival at RE+ signals — larger consumer brands are now choosing to invest in solar.
Like everyone else in the industry, we were disappointed when LG announced they would stop manufacturing solar panels earlier this year. We were worried that their pullback from the solar market would trigger other diversified companies to do the same. Fortunately, this RE+ proved the opposite. More electronics and battery brands are getting into solar and hoping to make the most of the solar opportunity. This is only going to be a good thing for solar installers, who will have more negotiating power and more options to offer homeowners.
What comes next after RE+?
One way or another, these positives (and nitpicks) from RE+ are going to shape the solar industry for the next year. We’re excited to magnify the awesome things and to work together as an industry and face the challenges head-on.
For anyone that stopped by the Bodhi booth, thank you. We had an awesome time talking to solar installers about the customer experience and evolving needs of homeowners. For those of you who weren’t able to come out to Anaheim and want to learn more about the solar customer experience, reach out. We’d love to chat.