Two things were evident at the recent Solar Power International conference in Chicago.
The first is that players in the PV space see an improving industry environment after a difficult 18 months.
The second is that companies across the industry chain are preparing new strategies to seize on the opportunities stemming from renewed optimism about the prospects for the PV industry in 2014 and beyond.
The first point has been bolstered by increasing shipments and improved margins for upstream players and increasing project pipelines for downstream firms. These results have also been highlighted in recent NPD Solarbuzz reports, indicating both record shipments in 2013 and increased demand and production in 2014 in the 45-55 GW range.
Many conversations on the US market, for both upstream and downstream players, revolved around the growing US project pipeline which now exceeds 45 GW according to the October US Deal Tracker.
The sheer volume of projects proposed and under development creates both opportunities as well as challenges, with the latter primarily revolving around competition for project sourcing and identification of appropriate opportunities so as not to waste precious time and resources on project negotiations that are less likely to be successful.
There were also discussions about the improving industry supply/demand picture, what this means for component and system pricing, and how continuing global trade disputes might impact the nascent recovery. If one conclusion can be drawn from the show, it is that even with the industry picture improving, there is still a need to understand the PV market and identify suitable opportunities. The time when companies could participate without defined market strategies is over, as is the time when the only market strategy was to try and survive in an environment of plunging ASPs and declining project pipelines. Now, PV players find themselves in an environment where there are many opportunities, but also many competitors, and only by understanding and pursuing targeted business strategies will they be able to survive in a much leaner PV market.