from Chile to China
to keep you informed
Inspired by a news article (1993) describing the many benefits of ‘photovoltaic energy’, Edwin Koot starts a consulting firm from his home, specializing in environmental issues and solar energy. At the time, there are only 5 roof-top projects in the Netherlands and they are all demos. Over the course of the decade that follows, Edwin empowers the realization of hundreds of PV projects throughout the country - including the then-largest roof project on the Rotterdam Zoo’s aquarium - while Government incentives drive impressive market growth and make the Netherlands one of the most-advanced solar markets in the world. The cut of all subsidies in the country, brought Edwin back to square one, looking for a new angle.
Edwin decides to broaden his horizons and go global by founding Solarplaza in 2004. Recognizing the great potential of the budding world wide web for solar business and networking, he starts www.solarplaza.com, an online directory of international resources and contact lists of PV companies and professionals. Parallel to this, he makes his foray into the event business. After writing a successful report on Spain’s booming solar market, he follows it up by taking a group of solar entrepreneurs to Spain. This enthusing experience motivates him to organize more of these exploratory solar PV trade missions to Spain, Japan, China and California; visiting the innovation hubs in Silicon Valley, touring the factories of China and checking out the first plants in Spain. Combined pioneering business meetings with Peking-duck dinners, visits to NBA matches and an overall informal “school-trip” atmosphere make these missions into a great success. Edwin builds long-lasting relations with key solar players from all over the world, many of whom are still good friends today and regularly attend Solarplaza’s events. Carefully cultivating relationships with the pioneers of the first hour resulted in an impressive core-network, with many top-layer solar executives a phone call away.
Just like the PV industry, the company starts to grow and gain momentum; young enthusiastic graduate students join, determined to make an impact on the world’s energy transition and enjoying Solarplaza’s international focus. With a small, but growing, team, we operate lean and mean; over-occupying hotel rooms, making road trips across Europe; and racing tuk-tuks through India. With every event Solarplaza organizes, the network of high-level solar professionals expands. New ideas come in and the trade mission concept becomes established and widely appreciated. Growing in a sustainable way, we are driven by the global rise in the solar energy demands that in these years pass from 2.6 GW of installed capacity to 100 GW, a 50-fold increase. Though much of our focus still lies with Europe’s main markets, we branch out by planting the first new flags in emerging markets like South Africa, India, Chile and Brazil.
We grow out of our offices and move to a bigger space in the Groot Handelsgebouw in Rotterdam to be able to host our fast-growing team. Although still united by a hunger for quality and success, the amount of different personalities, characters and nationalities and backgrounds now starts to diverge. We continue the push towards entering new emerging markets with our exploratory trade missions. This results in exciting market entries and adventures in Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Mexico, Panama and Senegal, accelerating knowledge sharing and network building in young, but high-potential solar markets. Adapting our ideas and experiences to such hugely diverse cultures remains a challenge that keeps on motivating. Bus trips through Arabian deserts; big family dinners in Dakar; trying to outsmart Jakarta’s traffic. All part of the game. At the same time, we’re also diving into niche specialist topics, organizing conferences on crowdfunding, the secondary market for solar plants and solar O&M. Our early focus on that last topic specifically, puts us in a solid position for building out a dedicated branch of events and activities related to the topic of solar asset management, something that will grow in importance over the years to follow.
Due to the overwhelmingly international background of our team we switch to English as the official language in the office. We are over 20 people now, with team members from Germany, Spain, Greece, Italy, Hungary, Armenia, Japan and Chile. The most exotic dishes pass through our microwave at lunchtime and the office “borrels” are given color with local delicacies from around the world. Our Solar Asset Management events are world-class and leading in Europe, North America, Latam and Japan. Our biggest event ever, ‘Making Solar Bankable’ is organized in collaboration with the development bank FMO: more than 450 attendees from 44 countries join us in Amsterdam to access high-level content, inspirational speakers, networking opportunities, cultural activities, and much more. ‘Making Solar Bankable’ also marks the start of a transition towards more finance-driven events, where the world of solar project development can connect with banks, investors and financiers, thanks to the high interactivity and the networking opportunities every event delivers.
Splitting up in dedicated ‘Solar Asset Management’ and ‘Finance & Innovation’ teams and recruiting significant reinforcements across the board, we start scaling up the number of conferences we are able to host each year. In addition, we launch an internal ‘Future Grid’ team, which focuses on the kinds of topics and segments with high potential impact on the energy system of the future. Topics like energy storage, green hydrogen, circularity and blockchain are being explored on the highest level. The Solar Asset Management team solidifies its global position, while the Finance & Innovation team continues to serve local and developing markets in Latam, Asia and Africa (planting many new flags in the latter region as they go). The team almost doubles over the course of this period and continues to become more diverse and multicultural. Flagship conferences like Solar Asset Management: North America, Making Solar Bankable and Unlocking Solar Capital: Africa thrive and manage to create a big impact through their reach. On the other end of the spectrum, intimate events like the Future Grid Labs series and the Desert to Power mission in West Africa create inspirational ripples that could swell into proper waves when the time is right. We cross the landmark moment of 100 of organized events and celebrate properly with our clients in Milan (featuring a performance by our very own in-house DJ).
Though we’re holding on to our core values and philosophy of flexibility and adaptability, we’ve outgrown our start-up beginnings and are restructuring our company to enter a new phase. In 2019, we celebrate our 15-year anniversary in style, just before once again outgrowing our office and moving headquarters. We double down on our key markets and partnerships with key clients, but always continue to search out new horizons and opportunities. Under the Solar Asset Management flag, we launch our first event in the UAE and ‘finally’ establish a presence in Australia - which had always been considered one of the most impossible and unlikely corners of the earth for us to reach. All made possible through our ever-growing network, which we continuously seek to interconnect and empower. We jump onto the emerging topic of floating solar, even hosting a project visit to a floating cow farm with a connected solar system.
We start exploring new and alternative ways to provide value to that network and fulfill our mission of ‘accelerating the sustainable energy transition’, through developing new concepts related to content offering, online campaigns, matchmaking and consultancy. In 2019, we also launched the Solarplaza Foundation, a new effort to channel parts of our profits, expertise, time and network outside of the business-to-business arena and create impact on a different level. With the sudden rise and spread of the Covid-19 crisis in 2020, we switch gears at high speeds and rapidly develop alternative solutions for virtualizing events, networking and knowledge delivery. As the year progresses, we’re quickly adapting and updating our offerings to the new reality, convinced of the lasting value of the new virtual emphasis.