My impressions of Buffalo are mixed. I am staying downtown, which is all but deserted except for the participants of SOLAR 2009. There is not a solar panel in sight, which leads one to ask how the solar conference ended up here. Next year, I think it is in Arizona, which does seem to make more sense. I did see a bus run on natural gas, but nothing solar. The architecture is depressingly modernistic, or Stalinist revival. One building could easily pass for the brother of one of the famous Stalin skyscrapers in Moscow. And the city court looks about 15 storey and is almost completely windowless; that is right, windowless. There are a lot of statues of buffaloes, which should come of no surprise.
Yet, in this twist of irony, if you are solar, you are in Buffalo for the next few days. Here is a brief summary of the personalities that would come to a solar conference. I met one sales rep from a company in Ontario that makes inverters for huge installations, like 10 megawatts–in Spain, the U.S., and even China. I think that I heard him right when he said that for the thin film modules, one would need 7 acres per megawatt, and 4 or 5 acres per megawatt for the crystalline panels. That is not exactly for an urban setting.
Then I met the graduate electrical engineering student is who looking for a job. And SOLAR 2009 is definitely the place for contacts.
I met one entrepreneur who is putting together systems for export to Southeast Asia and other foreign markets. Solar energy products are one of the few bright spots in our export profile and there are increasing incentives to export this technology.
And the strangest character I met was an Israeli who lives in the West Bank, and if I heard him correctly, he lives at an illegal settlement. Israel has one of the most advanced market for solar water heaters, but his interest is in the off-grid PV applications. When you think of off-grid, I think of the folks far away from the city lights like in Northern California or Maine, but now I will have to think of the illegal settler in the West Bank.