That was the question I put to Nat Bullard – Senior Solar Thermal Analyst at New Energy Finance. He brushed off the question as stupid – so in case you feel like asking him here is his response:
A) they require at least 9 months of permitting
B) they have a building time horizon of many years after that, and
C) they sell to Utilities not to consumers.
Unlike Nat, I don’t think that these are necessarily reasons for not presenting – but he did come up with a good point: where was FirstSolar? “If you are established, then you are established,” he said. Well then Nat… what about SunPower’s huge party? Or are they not established enough for your liking? How about Q-Cells’? Was their party just for fun? (it was!)
I don’t know about his analysis on the absence of the big guys in STEG (Solar Thermal Electrical Generation) either – there are more and more companies coming on line, and while I saw some BrightSource executives and at least one former Ausra exec neither of these companies, nor any from the other recognized solar thermal players had a presence on the Expo floor (SkyFuel was there). Why would they skip out on a chance to tell the world what they do? The natural response to my question is, why should they have been there if the whole world already knows about them? I say because there were plenty of utilities there from outside of California and the United States.
While I’m somewhat comfortable with Nat’s thesis, I think that given how many non-Americans were in attendance they could have used the platform to show European players their offering. Non-US companies considering expanding into the US market were definitely present – though many players that came, including German Phoenix Solar and Spanish Proinso, did not invest in a display stand.
Another thought is that it was primarily a show for finance plays given the economy. The problem with that argument is that the expo sold out of spots months ago – and the economy only got very scary in the last few weeks (fine, months). Finance did seem to rule the nest up in the conference halls, and the solar project financing companies were there in force; SunEdison was there, quite a few banks had representatives there, Tioga had all of their senior leadership there, and MMA Renewable Ventures threw a huge party despite CEO Matt Cheney’s bearish outlook on the CEO panel that morning where he shared the stage with Anton Milner from Q-Cells, Martin Heming from Schott Solar, and Jeannine Sargent from Oerlikon.
Nat… tell me – why wouldn’t the BrightSources and Ausras of the World want to tell the Middle Eastern project developers why they should use their technologies? Even if you think it is because they are saving their schillings knowing it will be a while before they can raise the debt they need for their projects Dubai’s petrodollars can surely fund a project at home….