Visitors look at the big "flower" formed by solar panels at the Solar Power International (SPI) 2016 exhibition in Las Vegas, the United States, Sept. 13, 2016. (Xinhua/Zhang Chaoqun)
by Zhang Chaoqun
LAS VEGAS, Sept. 13 (Xinhua) -- The Solar Power International (SPI) 2016 exhibition kicked off at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Tuesday with thousands of solar professionals rolling into the city.
The event -- the largest of its kind in North America -- has so far attracted 16,000 visitors and around 600 exhibitors and is co-sponsored by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA).
"With one million installations and less than 1 percent of U.S. energy supply, solar is just starting to hit its adolescence," said K. Kaufman, communications manager of the SEPA.
"What most people think is that solar and wind and renewables in general cannot take the place of fossil fuels because they are intermittent. But the industry is now clearly focused on finding ways to solve that problem, combining storage and other technologies to make solar what in the industry is called 'dispatchable,'" he said.
Chinese carmaker BYD -- the world's largest electronic vehicle manufacturer and renewable energy focused company -- exhibited its latest solar panel and energy storage system at the show.
"I think we have seen a complete transformation of the market. Solar panel cost has come way down, making it available to middle class, to lower middle class customers. So solar is spreading across every rooftop. I think it is true that former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said one time that every rooftop without solar is a waste of space. That's what we are proving today," Micheal Austin, Vice President of BYD America, told Xinhua.
"We are looking at the renewable energy generation. Today we are showing all of our solar technologies. We have made investments to manufacture about 1 Giga watt annual capacity of solar," Austin said.
BYD today also expanded its electric vehicle manufacturing plant in the U.S. city of Lancaster, southern California, increasing size of the facility, employment and production capability by three times over the next three years.
From solar panel, battery storage for grid to electric cars, BYD has been building a carbon free eco-system.
The U.S. solar industry now employs 209,000 American workers, according to the SEIA.
"In Las Vegas, the Mandalay Bay Convention Center has installed one of the largest rooftop solar arrays in the United States and will offset 25 percent of its peak usage," said Julia Hamm, President and CEO of the SEPA.
"For the solar industry, opportunities exist at every turn. The message this year is that SPI isn't only about solar. The industry is now an integral part of the energy sector transformation toward more distributed resources and a distributed grid, and the range of companies and speakers headed for Las Vegas reflect that growth," she said.
There is also a notable trend in solar industry that focuses on more householders' pursuit for net-zero smart homes.
"There's a sense that consumers want guilt free energy, and in California that attitude is growing. People want to charge their car, access cheap and secure energy and have control over it," said Steven Malnight, senior vice president of regulatory affairs at Pacific Gas and Electric Company.
He said, "Solar may not be the iPhone, but it can enable customers to do more without having an environmental impact and do it guilt-free."
Private infrastructure investment in solar energy during 2015 grew to 9.4 billion U.S. dollars, 72 percent higher than the average of the previous five years, according to a World Bank report released earlier this year.
SPI ends Friday.