Solar Power International 2012 (SPI ’12) began its four-day run in Orlando

Rhone Resch, President and CEO of SEIA, reported that the U.S. solar market had achieved its second best quarter in history having installed 742 megawatts of solar power, while the utility segment registered it best-ever quarter with 477 megawatts. Through Q2 2012, the U.S. now has 5,700 MWs of installed solar electric capacity, enough electricity to power nearly a million homes with a total projected 3.2 gigawatts of new installed solar for 2012.

Solar Power International 2012 (SPI ‘12) began its four-day run in Orlando last night with a dynamic panel of industry thought leaders stressing that now is the time for collaboration and cooperation to establish a level playing field to create a marketplace where all energy can compete including solar.

“Every year, SPI is one of the first events we schedule in our marketing plans, as it provides a unique opportunity to engage both our upstream and downstream partners from across the country.”

The executives examining “Growth in an Uncertain Market” were: Tom Doyle, CEO of NRG Solar; Jurgen Krehnke, Advisor to the Board of Management, SMA Solar Technology AG; Peter Marte, CEO, Hannah Solar; Nancy Pfund, Founder and Managing Partner, DBL Investors; Eric Silagy, President, Florida Power & Light; and, Thomas Werner, President & CEO, SunPower Corporation.

The wide-ranging discussion explored renewable portfolio standards, net metering, regulation, storage, grassroots support for solar and the future of the investment tax credit. The executives agreed that it is imperative to establish a partnership between the industry and utilities, creating the necessary stability to make solar a larger share of our energy mix.

SPI, North America’s premier business-to-business event for professionals in solar energy, is presented by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA). At the opening general session, SEPA President and CEO Julia Hamm also stressed that achieving a substantial role for solar energy in America’s energy future requires a strong partnership culture, where collaboration exists not only between the electric utilities and solar installers but also with providers of other related technologies.

Hamm urged the “solar industry and the utility industry to invest in the development of a regulatory structure that allows for a new long-term, sustainable utility business model that encourages customers capable of installing solar to do so and rewards utilities that innovate and create a platform on which solar is fully leveraged for its strengths and which ensures the costs and benefits are fairly distributed.”

“One of the biggest successes we have had in the last couple of years is the diversification of our market with over half of the states having more than 5MW of solar with the majority of the U.S. population living in states with more than 50MW installed.” Despite the market spike, he cautioned, the industry is facing challenges on the political and the regulatory front and SEIA is going to push back on the negative messaging on solar in key swing states.