Solar Geeks Paradise: a Review of the Intersol Conference 2018

It’s a hard life travelling to beautiful cities and staying in nice hotels around Europe in the name of keeping up with the latest trends in sustainable energy. But someone has to do it.

Actually, as anyone who has had the dubious pleasure of attending one will tell you, industry conferences are usually far from glamorous affairs. So when I popped over to Munich last week, solar-powered knapsack neatly packed with European adaptors for my chargers and a hopeful pair of swimming trunks, it was with a muted sense of expectation. But the Intersol conference more than surpassed it, delivering, dancing Teslas, discounts for football skills and beach volleyball parties,

Having the conference in Munich helped.  With lush green bier gartens, classic architecture and a typically efficient German transport system, this great city adds to the Intersolar experience.  For three days the 856 exhibitors show off the latest technology in Solar PV panels, inverters, mounting systems, battery storage, PV design software and associated services across an area covering 100,000 sqm to over 50,000 visitors. It’s kind of a big deal for us Solar Geeks.

The Goodwe stand featured a Tesla Model X which had been programmed to dance in time with their stand music.  The Gul-Wing doors, windows and wing mirrors all moving in synchronised unison.

The LG stand had an EV Solar Roof. Sounds promising but let’s get perspective.  If you have an EV covered in Solar PV and left it parked in full sun for a whole day, you might get about 5 miles of range added to the battery.  That’s not to say it’s not a good idea, every little helps, just managing expectations.

Solar Panel fashions continue to develop with two types featuring a bit more heavily this year.  Many manufacturers are flaunting their Glass – Glass panels. This is where the rear of the panel is sealed in glass instead of foil (the foil is like a big plastic sticker).  This increases durability and commonly means they have a product warranty of 30 years and lower panel degradation. These panels can also work well as an awning as some of the light comes through and there are options for panels to have the cells spread out further to increase the light coming through like this example from Sonnestrom Fabrik.

Of course Tesla were there in strength and their Model X was difficult to get near throughout the show.  The simple facts about their Powerwall 2 make it very hard to beat in the solar storage market at the moment.  Figures like 5kW charge & discharge rate, 13.5kWh of storage at a price of £440/kWh installed, incredible customer services and future proofing for grid services and time of day trading mean that the Powerwall 2 is making up 97% of our solar storage installations. And given the rate they’re developing their technology, this looks unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.

Solar is literally reaching new heights with the new SolarStratos project.  Powered by Sunpower’s Maxeon Technology cells, this aircraft is undergoing test flights with the eventual aim of flying an aircraft to 25,000m powered only by the sun. The video is well worth a watch. We’re still a long, long way from any commercially viable electric flights with passengers, but given that air travel makes up 1% of the planet’ carbon emissions, and traffic is increasingly rapidly, it’s an area that could see major developments in the future.

The push towards energy independence, decentralised grids and electricity trading is gathering pace. Becoming your own energy supplier is very much a reality now and most of the battery storage solutions either have this capability or are developing it.  If you have a battery fitted in your home you’ll be able to trade electric at different times of the day, charging your battery at low rates during off peak times of day and supplying the grid at higher rates during peak times. So now you don’t even need to have solar to take advantage of this technology.

Beach parties.  It wasn’t all about business, Sunpower put on a beach party with  international beach volleyball matches, BBQs, cocktails and off-topic conversations to be had at Munich’s 38 Degrees bar.  I’m still trying to get all the sand out of my trunks.

Despite the disappointing performance from the German team in the world cup, there was still plenty of talk about football.I tried not to be too smug. Especially on the Valentin Software stand where they had a wooden board with holes slightly larger than a football for you to kick a ball through.  You get 6 shots and each shot increases your discount on your next Valentin Software purchase. Valentin develop the PV Sol software that Naked Solar use to provide customers with clear designs and accurate forecasts, helping them make informed decisions about what system to choose. With Naked Solar’s growth we’re about to purchase a new licence for our new system designer, so getting a 25% discount was a massive bonus thanks to my football skill luck.  At £1200/licence I earned £50/kick!

So that was Intersolar, refreshingly free of grey suits and salesbabble. I was entertained, I learned valuable insights about our solar future and I got a discount via a dubious left foot. What more could you ask for? So I’m sure we’ll be returning next year to ensure that Naked Solar stay at the forefront of the solar industry, we keep our customers updated with the very latest developments and I get to show off my England World Cup Winners 2018 swimming trunks. Maybe.

Tony Sampson, MD Naked Solar

Update, 12/07/2018, 8.07am

Re the trunks: or maybe not

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