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, go global and founds 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 steps 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 with Peking-duck dinners, NBA-matches and informal “school-trip” atmosphere makes 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. Paul and Tom van der Linden, Tom van Dorp and Stefano Cruccu all join in these years, and are today still with Solarplaza, where they run the company’s core businesses. We operate lean and mean; overoccupying hotel rooms, making roadtrips across Europe; and racing tuktuks 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 50x fold increase. Though much of our focus still lies with Europe’s main markets, we branch out by planting 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.
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 colour 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.