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Vision for the future

Michael Maulick CEO & President SunLink Corporation

Three EnTech Trends ACCELERATING SOLAR into 2026 There is an enormous opportunity to revolutionize the trillion-dollar energy sector with energy technology (EnTech) convergence solutions that bring the best technology to bear on energy’s biggest challenges. In 10 years, the solar industry’s top innovators will have leveraged three EnTech trends to accelerate the upward trajectories of both their own businesses and the sector, at large.

1) Harnessing the power of artificial intelligence and IoT to create the next generation of solar solutions Artificial intelligence (AI) machine learning – using algorithms to enable machines to “learn” things for themselves – is driving tech innovation across industries, including solar. In 10 years, companies will have used IoT technology to transform the components on a solar installation into a physical “network” by embedding them with electronics, software, sensors and secure meshed network connectivity. The components will be collecting and exchanging realtime data, feeding the AI algorithms. Artificial intelligence is going to figure as prominently in the EnTech-enabled future of solar as it does for every other industry. By 2026, smarter solar “machines” will have long been the norm.

new competitors. In contrast, the tech sector has proven that exposing data to the creativity of others via open platforms is a more effective path to advance both company and industry growth as greater numbers of developers drive advancement and new capabilities through collective input, suggestions and requirements. As a result, the energy sector has already begun to make the shift to open application programming interfaces (APIs), and a decade from now that evolution will have fostered a new level of problem-solving technology. Moving to open standard RESTful APIs invites more brainpower to look at energy challenges – which means the solar industry will more rapidly be able to define new solutions that will accelerate its downward cost curve and expand its global adoption.

3) The embedment of cybersecurity solutions to help increase solar’s share of the energy mix by solving grid security challenges not solved by legacy energy players The energy industry is focused on securing grid assets ranging from power plants and substations to smart-metered customers, and that will only continue to increase in urgency over the next decade. The move to embed such cybersecurity protocols as tokenization, multi-factor authentication and more within energy technology will have dramatically impacted the solar business landscape – for the better. What started as an industry built upon mechanical and structural engineering expertise will have an equally robust software engineering component tasked with making hardware more intelligent, efficient, connected and secure. It is clear that EnTech will play a vital role in the future scalability of solar. These three trends will usher in a new generation of essential solar industry solutions that will be widely adopted across the entire energy value chain by 2026. SPW

2) Moving to open standards to foster innovation and improve industry operations Historically, the solar industry has been guided by the philosophy that proprietary communication protocols and data privacy will protect market share and limit the growth of



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11 • 2016

11/8/16 4:20 PM

Solar Power World _ NOVEMBER 2016