I’m headed up to San Francisco to the Intersolar show tomorrow morning for a couple of days of meetings, and, of course, checking out the show itself.
I just realized that I’m entering my fourth decade of attending trade shows now. I remember seeing a gawky kid with glasses at a show in the early 80s, and someone said, “Oh, that’s Bill Gates. He has a softwarecompany. I wonder if it will go anywhere?” Since then, I can’t counthow many events I’m traipsed through in Europe and North America, onsome mission or another.
One thing I find interesting is what I call the “tone” of the show. Of course, the promoters of all shows represent that theirs is the mostexciting event in the universe — even in subject matter areas that mostpeople find dull as dishwater. But beneath the loud music and theflashing lights, I try to read the true feelings that underlie theshow. A good example is the auto shows, which I often attend to see the alternate fuel vehicles and to meet the people associated with them. The car shows in Los Angeles and Detroit these last few years still have the glitz and the pretty girls — but there is something palpably wrong: people aren’t buying cars, and the OEMs are scaling back — oneverything: promotions — even entire product annoucements. People stillwear smiles, but you can almost hear them thinking, “Wow, this isterrible.”
It will be interesting to see what Intersolar is like. Obviously,the solar industry is under some real pressure, with precipitous dropsin PV prices with the attendent distressed margins, and a horribleenvironment for capital formation. Then you have what could be calledthe recalcitrance of the traditional energy industry. As I’ve oftensaid, these fossil fuel peoplearen’t going away anytime soon — ecological disaster or no. I wouldthink that this, combined with the overall economic climate, would tendto cast a kind of pallor over the place.
On the other hand, the solar thermal industry — far less mature thanPV — boasts some terrific breakthroughs in technologies that are veryinteresting indeed.
We’ll see. I’ll update you on my travels. If you happen to be thereand want to say hello, hit “contact.”