Our top takeaways from the Solar & Energy Storage Summit 2024

Analyst highlights from our annual conference

4 minute read

On June 12th – 13th 2024, Wood Mackenzie hosted its annual Solar & Energy Storage Summit in San Francisco, California. In its 17th year, the conference brought together executives and thought leaders who are grappling with new trade policies, increasing power demand, and shifts in solar and storage technology. 

There were presentations and panel discussions on everything from the biggest challenges in early-stage project development, to whether the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is paying off, to the dynamics of the distributed solar and storage industries. And of course, there were all the critical conversations that took place off the stage. After being steeped in these conversations, our analysts share their most important reflections in the below insight. These reflections showcase the top themes, emerging issues, and key findings directly from the conference. 

To download our insight outlining all the top takeaways, fill out the form at the top of the page. Or, read on for a quick summary of just a couple of our takeaways: 

1. Solar is embracing technology evolution to improve development and production of large-scale projects  

Given today’s challenges related to project execution, developers are more motivated than ever to find technological solutions that can expedite or improve project construction. During a panel focused on site selection and project design, some of the industry’s largest developers mentioned deploying smart automation solutions and robotics for construction activities. Several solutions were mentioned that developers can use to reduce on-field construction costs and form digital twins of their solar plants. The digital twins can then be used to optimize a variety of O&M activities. The panelists also discussed the use of drones for site surveying, which is becoming commonplace.   

Technology solutions are also being adopted to optimize transmission and project production. Grid-enhancing technologies such as dynamic line rating can help utilities optimize transmission capacity, thereby alleviating interconnection bottlenecks and potentially avoiding costly transmission upgrades. The panelists also mentioned that certain utility pilot programs are hinting at a transition from 1500 Vdc utility-scale inverters to 2000 Vdc architecture – these higher voltage inverters could become more standard in the future.  

Finally, a panel focused on module technology highlighted the rapid trends taking place in the solar value chain. In the last few years, the solar module technology of choice has shifted from PERC to TOPCon (two different types of cell technology). Module manufacturers are making impressive efficiency gains – the best modules can produce 27% efficiencies in lab conditions. The panelists agreed that perovskite technology is still a long way away, but that big improvements have been made and we could see viable commercial modules within a few years.  

All these advancements and innovations can help reduce costs, increase production, and deploy solar at a faster pace than ever. 

2. The storage industry is balancing growing maturity with rapid expansion 

Multiple panels reflected on the rapid evolution of the storage industry. As more assets become operational, many players are becoming more sophisticated. At the same time, new entrants continue to enter the industry. And there are numerous complexities that new entrants must contend with. There is now a complex stack of software for operating storage systems, with different tools needed for different use cases. System operators are trying to differentiate through the utilization of this software. Understanding offtake agreements and dispatch strategy is critical in evaluating what type of analytics and dispatch software is needed for a given asset.  

Fire safety for storage systems was another hot topic at the conference. On a panel about this topic, an audience poll revealed a split in industry perception: half the audience felt the battery storage industry was moving quickly enough to address safety concerns, while the other half did not. We also heard that despite continuing concerns from the public, fire rates are falling as fire suppression and control systems improve. Developers continue to look to policy and local regulations to inform decisions around fire safety when siting and procuring battery storage assets.  

This is not an easy environment for all industry players. Given the rapid expansion of the market, there are constantly new companies working to learn all the market rules and best practices as they rapidly change. Project delays are common and can be exacerbated by inexperience with ISO market rules and interconnection processes. 

Learn more  

Please fill out the form at the top of the page to download the full insight and learn more about our other key findings, such as: 

  • The jury’s still out on whether the IRA will foster healthy domestic supply chains 
  • Constraints on project development are no longer about solar and storage equipment 

Sign up to next year's SESS 2025

You can also click here to register for and learn more about Solar & Energy Storage Summit 2025, which will take place in Denver next April. 

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