Panels-SolarSummitBy Gary Napadov

This past week I had the honor and privilege of being the guest of Greentech Media, by way of Impress Labs, at the Greentech Media Solar Summit 2013 (#GTMSS13). How, you may ask did I score an all-access pass to the sixth annual event that brings together the world’s leading solar companies, influential regulators and policymakers, forward-thinking utilities and bullish investors? Look no further than the wonders of the Thunderbird Alumni Network. That’s right, it just so happens that Impress Labs, a global brand, creative and communication agency, that was the Communications Sponsor of GTMSS13, has a T-Bird on its team. Christian Zdebel ‘12 joined the firm one year ago as Managing Director and has been very busy overseeing the client service organization for Impress’ growing portfolio of clients. Aside from being a loyal T-Bird, Mr. Zdebel is also a resident of Litchfield Park, my team’s client for the Organizational Consulting Practicum and the home of the beautiful Wigwam Resort where the Summit was held this year. In addition to Mr. Zdebel, Impress Labs recently brought on Tom Cheyney aka The Solar Curator. Cheyney is also the director of Impress’ solar energy practice. Mr. Cheyney was one of the most popular figures at the Summit as many attendees and loyal readers flocked to him to hear about the latest trends (and a little bit of scuttlebutt) in global solar energy.

So what is the Solar Summit? It’s an annual event put on by Greentech Media (GTM), an integrated online media company laser-focused on the greentech market. With this event, GTM brings together the “who’s who” of the solar industry to do business and gain access to the freshest, most innovative research on the maturing PV market and to discuss the current and future state of the solar industry. The topics included:

In my three days at the Summit I had the opportunity to engage with members of the entire solar value chain, everyone from solar equipment manufacturers to management consultants and members of the financial community. In the process I learned a great deal about the industry and the opportunities it presents to recent MBAs. While I am fairly new to the business of solar, I did have something to contribute to the discourse. Thanks to my involvement with Net Impact, my growing interest in cleantech, and of course, my upcoming TEMLab with the Solar Sister organization, I was able to contribute to discussions about off-grid solar and rural electrification in developing nations. The TEMLab was especially relevant in my discourse with Michael Ratliff, Director with the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) Renewable Energy and Sustainable Development Finance group and Faheen Allibhoy, the Senior Investment Officer of the International Finance Corporation (IFC). Both were very excited about the Solar Sister project and have already put me in touch with their contacts in Africa.

The Summit was an amazing learning and networking experience. I am now extremely excited about the industry and confident in its potential to truly revolutionize the energy Iandscape. Overwhelmingly, the conversations came back to business sustainability and the industry’s long-term financial viability. While opinions vary as to what the next big thing is, most of the conversations centered on solar in a post-subsidy market, the dynamics between largely traditional utilities and solar, market differences between states and countries, the price of panels and components, net metering and distributed generation, and what most expect is a forthcoming industry consolidation. This last point was of particular interest because of two major acquisitions in the days prior to the conference (ABB/Power-One, Duke Energy/SolarWorld).

The biggest takeaway is that the solar industry is still growing up, and that there remain myriad uncertainties. Thunderbirds, however, know that uncertainty also means opportunity. The solar industry needs strong, globally minded business leaders to help lead the industry into its next phase. There is little question that this industry will continue to face consolidation as it matures; however, the companies that survive will need strong managers to ensure financials sustainability of projects, keep the focus on the customer, and above all, bring knowledge of the business on a global scale. I therefore strongly encourage all students and alumni interested in this dynamic and fast moving industry, and renewables more broadly, to stay tuned to Greentech Media and the Solar Curator for all the latest in industry trends and career opportunities.

The following is some noteworthy GTMSS13 panel coverage:

Thank you again to Greentech Media for putting on this amazing event and giving me the opportunity to learn and share my newfound solar knowledge with the Thunderbird community. I look forward to seeing you at Intersolar in July.

About Greentech Media

Greentech Media (GTM) is devoted to covering emerging green and clean technologies. As renewable energy becomes an increasingly large sector, the business community needs a source with up-to-the-minute news on solar, smart grid, enterprise energy solutions, wind energy, electric vehicles, biofuels, water, batteries and storage, finance and VC, and policy throughout the sectors. More at

About Impress Labs

Impress Labs is a global creative and marketing communications agency specializing in building brands for technology companies in the semiconductor, solar energy and life science industries. More at

About Solar Curator offers an expertly hand-picked sampler of the newsworthy, provocative, informative, and amusing from across the media, corporate, and other content streams flowing through the global solar energy community. More at

About Solar Sister

Solar Sister eradicates energy poverty by empowering women with economic opportunity.  We combine the breakthrough potential of solar technology with a deliberately woman-centered direct sales network to bring light, hope and opportunity to even the most remote communities in rural Africa. More at

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