SAN FRANCISCO — For the third consecutive year, Antenna Group has announced its top 10 energy technology areas to watch in the coming year.

San Francisco-based Antenna Group, a Beckerman company, is one of the nation’s largest energy technology communications firms. Its top 10 headline grabbers for 2014 are drawn from the company’s experience in renewable energy, energy efficiency, alternative fuels, energy storage, finance, waste management, and water, as well as conversations with analysts, media, and other industry influencers.

Four out of Antenna’s top 10 trends are in the solar sector, spurred by solar’s record-breaking year of growth. According to a recent report by the Solar Energy Industry Association and GTM Research, the third quarter of 2013 was the largest quarter ever for residential solar installations, and the second largest quarter in the history of the U.S. solar market. Driven by solar PV module price reductions, the rising cost of grid electricity, and the growth of innovative financing models, the nation’s solar PV capacity could rise five-fold to 50 gigawatts or more by 2017, according to a recent report from Deutsche Bank.

Here are Antenna’s top 10 energy technology headline grabbers for 2014:

1. Soaring solar securitization. Solar securitization was off to the races at the end of 2013 with the announcement by SolarCity of a $54.4 million solar asset-backed financing package. The deal, which pooled solar contracts from more than 5,000 installations, represents the first time that securitization, or the practice of pooling disparate sources of debt and selling the package to investors, has been applied to solar. Such deals accelerate solar adoption by increasing access to capital; expect more in 2014.

2. Developing solar big data. The lack of financial, technical, and operational performance data on solar PV systems has held back banks, insurers, credit rating agencies and utilities from investing in solar. Big data has transformed the tech world, and 2014 will be the year it changes the trajectory of the solar industry. Platforms for aggregating and analyzing performance information from diverse sources are helping to accelerate investment in solar PV portfolios and speeding the securitization of solar.

3. Attacking natural gas waste. Around the world, billions of cubic meters of natural gas are wasted annually, typically as a byproduct of oil extraction. Gas-to-liquids (GTL) technologies can reduce flaring and produce gasoline at the same time, and as these technologies mature, expect to see them gain ground in 2014.

4. Micro-hybrids hit the gas. Micro-hybrids automatically shut down a car engine to reduce idling time. They’ve been widely adopted in Europe and China, but not in the United States because more highway driving makes fuel efficiency a less urgent need and because the technology is harder to install on automatic transmissions. With the proliferation of clean car standards and better battery technologies, look for the micro-hybrid market to grow to one in four cars by 2025.

5. Balance of systems shakeout. Much like the module market of years past, balance of system (BOS) companies are now clamoring to demonstrate differentiation through cost and performance benefits. In a crowded market, 2014 should bring attrition and consolidation, with lower prices than ever to continue solar’s extraordinary growth. Watch for developers and module manufacturers to start gobbling up some of the strongest BOS players to strengthen their own offerings.

6. Revisiting solar manufacturing. When solar module prices bottomed out faster than anyone expected, manufacturers were suddenly operating on minuscule margins. Now, after several years of battening the hatches and riding out the storm, manufacturers are back on the hunt for ways to not just survive, but to thrive. Advancements in raw materials — namely silicon — and low cap-ex/fabless manufacturing techniques are reentering the discussion as ways to improve bottom lines without compromising on performance.

7. PACE financing takes flight. After a few hiccups, the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing model is gaining momentum. This model enables property owners to finance energy efficiency upgrades — including high-efficiency HVAC systems and solar PV installations — with no upfront costs, repaid through property taxes. Piggybacking off the successes of programs in California, Florida, and Connecticut, a number of new PACE districts are scheduled to come online in 2014.

8. Voluntary green power markets boom. There’s no shortage of support for renewable energy in the United States, but not everyone can install a solar or wind generation system. More Americans are choosing alternative methods of supporting clean power, from buying community solar to purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). A recent report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory documented a 36 percent increase in renewable energy sales through these voluntary green power markets between 2010 and 2012. With the rise of innovative financing packages, this sector will continue accelerating in years to come.

9. Transforming trash into treasure. A new breed of recycling companies is removing perceived waste from landfills and converting that waste into high-tech, high-value applications. Companies are offering cash for mobile phones; turning end-of-life tires into raw materials for new tires, plastic goods, and industrial applications; and transforming used juice cartons into resins for consumer goods. With raw materials prices on the rise, expect a strong mainstream push in this area in 2014.

10. The renaissance of concentrated solar power (CSP). Targeted, cost-effective applications are fueling CSP’s comeback. CSP developers are increasingly rolling out industrial applications for mining, desalination, and enhanced oil recovery (EOR), where the economic benefit is unquestionable. The opportunities are substantial; just solar EOR, whereby solar heat is used to generate steam that increases the amount of crude oil extracted from an oil field, is estimated to be a $113 billion global market.

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Publication date: 12/30/2013

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