As Solar Power 2007 conference panels began Tuesday, attendance was on track to exceed expectations of 10,000 attendees, conference organizers said. More than 8,000 had already registered, not including attendees of Tuesday's free public night.

The number already far exceeds last year's crop of more than 6,500 attendees (see Brightening the Solar Market).

Julia Judd, executive director of the Solar Electric Power Association and chair of the conference, said she didn't have exact numbers yet, but added, with a chuckle, "I think we're going to far exceed what we planned."

By 10:30 a.m., the on-site registration line stretched through the entire length of the Long Beach Convention Center, nearly the size of a city block.

And a crowd formed outside the morning plenary session as conference attendees hoping to catch keynotes by media heavyweight Ted Turner and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers managing partner Ray Lane exceeded the ballroom's capacity, estimated at 1,800.

"The masses of people pouring through the door are a clear indication of growth in the solar industry," Judd said. "Interest in solar is growing faster than ever and it's not just people in the industry; they are coming from all different interests."