Solar Power International Expo 2014 — Las Vegas


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Solar Power International (SPI) has closed out for another year. Many buyers arrived to interview the many and varied solar providers. Deals were made. The solar business market share in the energy sector will grow as a result. The convention a success.

For SPI show opening overview remarks and pictures, please visit this prior CleanTechnica article.

Aluminum CPV from Xxentria
Here is an aluminum CPV (concentrated photovoltaic) unit from Xxentria. The theory in CPV is that the PV is expensive, but the reflector unit isn’t so expensive, which could bring down the kWh cost of solar electricity. Xxentria coats their units with highly reflective material to increase the efficiency.

Xxentria CPV
Photo credit: JD Mumma

The Big Buzz
While we looked for big technology breakthrough news and the “big buzz” hot items at the show, we didn’t find any. What we did find was a maturing field of technology with lower prices and a range of applications such as utility-scale solar array project companies, flexible solar panels, lightweight solar panels, carport applications, faster and cheaper installation systems, racking for any situation, CPV, improved wind management, higher efficiency systems, lectures and education, thermal solar, agriculture mixed-use projects, improved quality control, beginning-to-end solar project consultancy groups a random wind turbine, Tesla Model S and Cadillac ELR and much more.

Applied Solar
Beyond the utility-scale solar array projects that we are used to seeing pictures of, there is a growing set of applied solar uses. We saw some interesting applied systems such as carports, flexible and portable thin film solar, and a solar panel on top of an off grid light pole that lit the ground below the light pole at night.

The Oddest Product
One unusual thing that we saw was some kind of odd-looking, bulky junction box that the exhibitors had no idea what it did.  Their company had just been bought and the parent company sent it to the show without training the exhibitors on what it did. It was very funny. They were laughing about it, too.

The Parties
Every end of session around 6 PM for this three day event, a few of the larger exhibitors offered beer and snacks. One had beer on tap from a keg. Below is a photo of the off site #SolarChat party, from left to right: Raina Russo, CEO of ET Solar Dennis She, and Glenna Wiseman.
Photo credit: JD Mumma

Las Vegas Highlights
Speaking of applied systems, adding in some local color, the famous “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign is now lit entirely by three small on-site solar arrays that are on nearby poles. This was put in place by Oscar Goodman who was a mob attorney here in Vegas during the old days. He even appeared in the Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Sharon Stone movie Casino as…you guessed it…the mob attorney. He was then elected as Mayor. Only in Vegas. He went to every event with two showgirls in full regalia. After two terms in office he couldn’t run for Mayor again so he put his wife up for Mayor and she won. She is the current Mayor of Las Vegas. Hey, at least they support solar power.

Las Vegas Welcome Sign Solar Arrays Dallas News Photo by Michael Hiller 1
Photo credit: Mike Hiller. Used with permission.
Mike’s blog is

SPI Solar Education
Seeing all of these exhibits and talking with the exhibitors was quite an education unto itself. It was a crash course in the opportunities, challenges and creative solutions facing the solar industry. A common impression that I had throughout the show was that the sheer size of the trade show was incredible and that the solar industry is now a formidable force that shall not be stopped.


Interview Selection
My friend JD Mumma (who is a photographer/videographer) and I were fortunate to be able to find a diverse group of exhibitors to discuss their wares. These companies were selected as a representative group of exhibitors to bring SPI to CleanTechnica readers through video interviews.

Interview Method
The interview method was designed to keep the videos short to save the readers’ time. We discussed questions and topics for discussion before the video and then let the exhibitors being interviewed run with it. They all did a great job.

CleanTechnica Interview at Solar Power International conference 2014
Company: GigaSolarPV
Product: Ultra-Light Solar Modules
Interviewed: Tom Hood
Focus: Light but durable solar panels are sometimes needed for some structures that otherwise wouldn’t allow for a full PV array due to the added weight or normal solar panels. Weight is reduced per panel from about 19 kg (42 pounds) to about 6 kg (13 pounds).
Web site:


CleanTechnica Interview at Solar Power International conference 2014
Company: GEDA USA
Product: Solar Lifts
Interviewed: Charles Cutter and Erica
Focus: Solar lifts make rooftop solar installations safer. Due to this, they are sometimes required by solar manufacturers or building codes.
Web site:


CleanTechnica Interview at Solar Power International conference 2014
Company: Renusol America
Product: Smart Solar Systems
Interviewed: Wayne Lee
Focus: Renusol is a subsidiary of Renusol GmbH, based in Germany, which has close to 1 GW of solar mounted on Renusol systems. Renusol America does installations offering a range of solar solutions. They have installations in 30 US states and Europe.
Web site:


CleanTechnica Interview at Solar Power International conference 2014
Company: Spice Solar
Product: Fast & Inexpensive Installation Systems, Spice Solar
Interviewed: Barry Cinnamon
Focus: Fast and inexpensive racking is a key part of reducing costs. Spice Solar, installers themselves, offers a solution for quick installations. Every order gets spice.
Web site:


SunChiller 1
Photo credit: JD Mumma

SunChiller Solar Thermal Tubes shown here
These are useful for cases when there is little space for very high efficiency. These will cost more than PV, but they produce more kWh in the same space footprint.

CleanTechnica Interview at Solar Power International conference 2014
Company: SunChiller/Sunda
Product: Solar Thermal Tubes
Interviewed: Serge Adamian
Focus: Sometimes there is a need for high output from a limited space when the budget allows for a more exotic solution and SunChiller delivers. These high efficiency units also work well in cold temperature locations. Technology: the concave metal in the tubes serve so collect heat to heat the center tube liquid, which is essentially a reverse heat sink. Clever.
Web site:


Hanergy 50 watt portable flexible solar panel
Photo credit: JD Mumma

Hanergy fold up 50 watt flexible panel
Greg Decker showing the 50 watt fold up flexible panel for off grid use. It folds up into a little flexible slim-briefcase sized carrying case (see video). This is brand new technology that will be available in 2015.

CleanTechnica Interview at Solar Power International conference 2014
Company: Global Solar Energy, division of Hanergy
Product: Flexible Solar Panels
Interviewed: Greg Decker
Focus: Flexible, thin film panels that form fit roofs and foldable panels for off grid, RV, camping recreational and academic field work uses.
Web site:


Thanks JD for your help.

We would like to thank the many exhibitors who spent time with us. We learned a lot and had fun learning. Solar rocks!

If you are looking for a great solar education, be sure to catch SPI 2015. It will be in Anaheim, CA during September 14-17.

If you decide to commercialize your solar idea, SPI is the place to launch it. I’ll see you next year in Start-Up Alley!

Solar Power International Expo 2014 Las Vegas Opens

Solar Power International 2014, better known as SPI, opened today in Las Vegas in the spacious, downtown Convention Center. There are over 600 exhibitors and thousands of attendees. SPI is run by SEIA (Solar Energy Industries Association) and SEPA (Solar Electric Power Association). The event is run for the benefit of solar power in the United States.

All of the big solar companies from around the world are represented and many small companies are here and there is even a special section for startups. There are several two story exhibits with two floors of inner offices for meetings. The nearly mural-sized, utility scale projects that these companies have under their belts are impressive. The overwhelming emotion that I have wandering through this show is that this is a steam roller with a momentum that will not be stopped.

The main floor is enormous. At the back of the main floor, there is a second slightly lower room that itself is bigger than many conventions. During the heart of the exhibit day, the din is high making interviews a bit difficult. My photographer friend, JD Mumma, and I did do some interviews today that will be published subsequent to this opening article.

These first four photos are an attempt to give a sense of scale, but they only show a fraction of the exhibition floor. SPI 2014 1 Big View 1
Photo credit: JD Mumma

SPI 2014 1 Big View 5
Photo credit: JD Mumma

SPI 2014 1 Big View 7
Photo credit: JD Mumma

SPI 2014 1 Big View 8
Photo credit: JD Mumma

There were solar vendors of every stripe. We had straight PV manufacturers, rack and attachment makers, installers, CPV, thermal solar, solar hot water, software efficiency people, project design consultants, utility-scale solar project companies, applied systems such as carports, sun trackers, a solar lift company to get the panels onto rooftops, storage companies, technical educators, electrical companies and so many more. There were even a couple of EVs and a windmill for good measure!

SPI 2014 GameChange Racking CarPort 5edit
Photo credit: JD Mumma

This Start-Up Alley was small. Most firms were established, which I took as a good sign of a mature marketplace. A couple of the startups didn’t show up; made me wonder if they had technology that wasn’t completed on schedule. Maybe next time.
SPI 2014 1 Start Up Alley 1
Photo credit: JD Mumma

Gotta love those Tesla Model S EVs. One of the attendees jumped in it and started playing with the oversized screen in it.
SPI 2014 EV Tesla 1
Photo credit: JD Mumma

The Cadillac ELR with spokesmodel Daniya. Maybe Tesla doesn’t need a spokesmodel because it’s sexy enough on its own?
SPI 2014 EV Cadillac ELR 1crop
Photo credit: JD Mumma

Here are a few of the other companies present.

SPI 2014 SunGrow 1
Photo credit: JD Mumma

SPI 2014 BYD 1
Photo credit: JD Mumma

SPI 2014 RBI Solar 1
Photo credit: JD Mumma

This is the SunModo group. They stayed after hours and were still cheery at the end of the day. Brandon (2nd from right) and group provide racking and mounting systems for any situation on any surface. Nice group from Washington state.
SPI 2014 SunModo Team 1
Photo credit: JD Mumma

Jinko Solar had one of the most impressive displays. The next several photos are of their exhibition booth.
SPI 2014 Jinko 1
Photo credit: JD Mumma

SPI 2014 Jinko 6
Photo credit: JD Mumma

SPI 2014 Jinko 2
Photo credit: JD Mumma

Renusol has different solar systems. The one displayed here is in Cologne, Germany. The rows go east to west and provide the benefit of constant solar for longer periods of time instead of peaking at mid-day. An interview of Wayne Lee will be published subsequent to this article.
SPI 2014 Renusol 2edit
Photo credit: JD Mumma

Mechanically lifting solar panels is important for worker safety. Houston-based GEDA Solarlift’s Charles Clutter was interviewed. Look for that in CleanTechnica’s next article on SPI.
SPI 2014 GEDA SolarLift 1 Charles Erica
Photo credit: JD Mumma

Here is a tilt angle installation system from AeroCompact followed by a single axis tracking system by NexTracker.

SPI 2014 AeroCompact 1
Photo credit: JD Mumma

SPI 2014 NexTracker 2
Photo credit: JD Mumma

The windmill for good measure.
SPI 2014 Helical Foundations 1
Photo credit: JD Mumma

Here are a few more photos to close it out for today. SolarWorld had an extreme bicyclist jumping around on his bicycle on their solar panels to show durability.
SPI 2014 1 Solar World 1
Photo credit: JD Mumma

SPI 2014 3 Light PV encased
Photo credit: JD Mumma

SPI 2014 Bright Westech 1
Photo credit: JD Mumma

SPI 2014 1 Big View 9
Photo credit: JD Mumma

This is quite an exhibition and being from Las Vegas, I’ve seen many shows. Living here makes attending SPI much easier and it comes with certain advantages. For instance, I’ve notified my local green friends that there will be many companies with steeply discounted surplus solar panels at the end of the expo that they won’t want to bring home with them. I expect that they will be stopping by on closing day with cash.

National Drive Electric Week, Las Vegas Event, 9-20-14

National Drive Electric Week, Las Vegas Event, 9-20-14

This was a wonderful event. My friend and photographer Brent Hatcher and I stayed through most of the event. The people who brought their vehicles were all very nice people. They wanted to share their positive experiences with driving EVs and they succeeded in doing that. I estimate that perhaps a couple of hundred people attended over the course of the day.

Photo credit: Brent Hatcher

It would be fair to mention that I still reluctantly drive an internal combustion engine (ICE). My next car will be an EV. Not that I needed much help really based on what I’ve read at and elsewhere online, this event played a favorable role in that decision.

Volunteers for the National Drive Electric Week Las Vegas Event

Photo credit: Brent Hatcher

Tesla owners
Ted Buban, Las Vegas
Rufus Perry, Las Vegas
Nissan Leaf owner
Mark Larsen, St. George, UT
Mitsubishi i-MIEV owner
Gary Rickling, Las Vegas
Chevy Volt driver (loan from local Findlay Chevrolet dealer)
Stan Hanel, Las Vegas
Frank Scandura, who owns Frank’s European Motors.

Photo credit: Brent Hatcher

Gary Rickling, i-MIEV owner
Gary’s i-MIEV is rated to have a range of 62, but he can get 70 driving in the city (the Las Vegas valley is pretty flat). He bought his car in 2012 i-MIEV in 2013 so they gave a big discount of $11,000 plus with the $7,500 tax discount, he got it for $16,000 and change. Gary and his wife have two cars. The 2nd car, an ICE vehicle is used for longer trips.

When he got the car, his co-workers told him it was ugly.
Gary retorted, “Think of me every time you are filling up your gas tank.

Gary uses the mobile app to find charging stations sometimes.

Photo credit: Brent Hatcher

Frank Scandura, who owns Frank’s European Motors
It was a pleasant surprise for me to see a car service company owner there. Frank is famous in Las Vegas for servicing Mercedes and other European imports. One might think that car service owners would dread the advent of the direct drive EVs, but Frank welcomes them. He’s gone through many car changes over the years and seems to welcome them all. He even gave me an autographed copy of his book How To Take Care of Your Vehicle So It Will Take Care of You.

Photo credit: Brent Hatcher

Rufus Perry, Tesla owner
“If everyone would not look at the challenge of going green and lessening our dependence on fossil fuels and coal as unreachable or unattainable, they can drive a Tesla or Leaf or whatever. If they can get away from the fossil fuel business that we have been tied to for 100 years, it will help us. It’s the little things that can help. This world is warming up and fossil fuels will be our demise if we don’t do anything about it.”

Photo credit: Brent Hatcher

Rufus said he can get a “200-mile charge in 20 minutes” with the Tesla Supercharger.

It’s a brave new world.

One of the coolest things that I saw during the day was when Rufus showed us how the Tesla charging plug when taken off the Tesla Supercharger unit will open the recharging panel door on the side of the Tesla since it has an auto-recognize feature built into it.

Photo credit: Brent Hatcher

Mark Larsen, Leaf owner
Mark has owned his Leaf for 2.5 years. His model has a 73 mile EPA-rated range (117 km), but the newer models get 83 miles (134 km). Mark has been getting 100 miles (161 km) around town and about 60 miles (97 km) on the highway.

Photo credit: Brent Hatcher

“There are compelling reasons to transition to an electric vehicle, no matter one’s political persuasion. They break our dependence on foreign oil, are cleaner for the environment, are cheaper to fuel and maintain. But the icing on the cake is that they are simply better cars: more powerful, more nimble, more reliable, quieter, safer, and funner to drive. Everyone’s a winner!”

Mark is a member of the Electric Auto Association, Plug-In America, and He has installed a Milbank RV panel in his garage to power both a 240V charging station for his Leaf and a NEMA 14-50 outlet for visitors’ EVs.

Mark has a hybrid garage since his wife has an ICE. They take it on longer trips. Mark said he likes the concept of the Nomadic Power extended range trailer. When they are available he said, “Yeah, that’s a good idea. I’d do that.”

Nomadic Power Range Extender ebuggy and Nissan_Leaf_800 2big

Mark installed over-capacity solar on his rooftop. He has enough for his house and for his EV. He sends excess into the grid. His Leaf has saved him over $3,000 in 2.5 years in gasoline savings. He’s saved several hundred more than that if we take into account his solar panels.

If you are interested in learning more about EV plugs, please visit Mark’s site at

Thanks to Mark for help on this article.

Ted Buban, Tesla owner
“Never buy and ICE,” Ted started. This man is decided, leaving no room for ambiguity about how he feels. He told how he made a trip to Michigan and back saving $1,600 in gasoline costs.

Photo credit: Brent Hatcher

“The only reason they have hybrids is to keep us on gasoline. We don’t need them.”

Jay Leno has a 1914 electric car that still runs.

Jay Leno in Baker Electric 1914 Free to use, even commercially
Jay Leno in his century old 1914 Baker Electric.
Photo credit unknown & unlicensed, even commercially.
For more on Baker EVs, see wiki

Ted continues, “Hydrogen is bullsh*t. They use it in rocket ships because it’s explosive.”

“The cost to put up a plug for EVs is $200 including union labor. What about [the cost to put up] a gas station?” We of course know that fast charging stations cost more, but Ted was just stating the minimum amount needed to get the job done, to switch to EVs.

Speaking of Elon Musk: “He’s going to change the world. He’s what the world needs right now.”

“I got 14 miles beyond zero [miles] once in my Tesla. I called Tesla and the person tells me I have 5% charge remaining. He knew exactly where I was through GPS and I told him I didn’t know the location of an RV park where I was headed and he gave me exact directions how to get there. I’m always 2 minutes from Tesla by phone.”

There is nowhere I won’t go [in my Tesla].

“Tesla is behind 20,000 cars. They all have names and deposits on them.”

The most fun of the day was a ride Brent and I took with Ted in his Tesla. We went from standing still zero to 75 MPH (120 KPH) in 5 seconds flat. To say it was fun is an understatement. I doubt I’ll ever forget the exhilaration. It was a blast that was unlike any car experience that I had previously had and I’ve been in some fast cars.

“This car is funner than sh*t. There’s nothing like it.”

Photo credit: Brent Hatcher

Tour of Las Vegas Charging Stations
Stan brought us on a tour of several EV charging sites in Las Vegas. We saw two Tesla Supercharger stations replete with large AC to DC converter boxes that serviced four charging bays.

Photo credit: Brent Hatcher

Charging Montage 1
Photo credit: Brent Hatcher

One of the interesting things that happened was a home-made 1965 Mustang retrofit that showed up at the event.

Photo credit: Brent Hatcher

Thanks to Stan Hanel for organizing this event and to Mark Larsen shown here in his tee shirt that was on message.

Photo credit: Brent Hatcher