SOLAR 2013 Report: Past Success, Future Challenges

Henry Red Cloud, Abbot Award Winner.
Cari Williamette photo

We have just returned from a most successful ASES National Solar Conference in Baltimore.

The wind and solar industries have grown and matured. The time seemed ripe to examine the pressing challenges of the day. To that end, we tied plenary sessions to important current business and policy issues:

  • Extreme weather and community resilience
  • Federal policies
  • The future of tax credits
  • Germany’s experience and what we can learn from their successes

We added several features relating to community action:

  • ALEC and other challenges from the far right
  • How the public can lead change at the local policy level, reducing soft costs
  • Community solar

In four breakout sessions, with representatives from NREL, DOE, Con Edison, SolarCity, the National Association of State Energy Officials and others, we explored extreme weather and how to prepare for it, respond to it and finance necessary infrastructure improvements.

And we welcomed our amazing Young Professionals, who had their first ever YP Forum and two sponsored special receptions.

Passive Architecture continues to grow and flourish. In addition to technical sessions we had a remarkable talk by renowned architect Travis Price, on ways in which energy-efficient buildings can fit naturally into the landscape and capture the spirit of place.

Our keynote speakers included Bill McKibben of, Kevin Knobloch of the Union of Concerned Scientists, David Wedepohl of the German Solar Industries Association, with Patricia Hoffman and Elaine Ulrich from the U.S. Department of Energy. They inspired and energized us.

We were pleased to present the Charles Greeley Abbott Award – our highest honor – to Henry Red Cloud of Lakota Solar Enterprises. Bruce Brownell, founder of Adirondack Alternative Energy, received the Passive Pioneer Award. Lucas Witmer won the John and Barbara Yellott Award for original work on solar-powered HVAC systems. We presented the Women in Solar Award to Renée Azerbegi, founder of Ambient Energy. Longtime ASES stalwart Paulette Middletown received the Rebecca Vories Award, and boardmember David L. Comis was elected an ASES Fellow.

As always, the ASES technical sessions were the heart and soul of the conference. We had more than 200 presentations and panel discussions, by established professionals, researchers and academics as well as graduate students and those relatively new to the renewable sector.

The conference underscored the exceptional progress made by renewables. Wind, solar and small hydro are now affordable mainstream products. Full-scale adoption of utility-scale wind and solar are well under way and unstoppable now. Seemingly trivial but institutionally stubborn obstacles remain for distributed clean energy, and demand united, determined political action at all levels of regulatory authority. Only at the ASES National Solar Conference can a participant learn about the issues in all renewable technologies, and meet with the leaders in all these fields. It’s also the only national gathering for public advocates.

What makes this conference truly remarkable is that so much of the planning and organization is done by dedicated ASES members and volunteers. Thanks to all of you for your remarkable efforts. You  ensured the success of this conference.

We also owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to our major sponsors – Solar Friendly Communities, Standard Solar, SolarTech/Solar 3.0, Crucible Communications, Quick Mount PV, Enphase Energy, Elsevier and S-5! — and to our Expo exhibitors. The Electric Avenue display showed off the newest electric and plug-in hybrid cars, and dozens of people got rides (or drives) in the Tesla Model S, Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf and Think City car. Thanks to Ford and Toyota for bringing their latest models for static display.

Next year marks the 60th anniversary of ASES. The Conference will be different. The era of big, expensive trade-show gatherings in convention centers is over. What we heard from members, visitors and young professionals that they value personal relationships and the chance to talk with colleagues across discipline boundaries. So we are exploring several options to provide the same top-quality content in a more intimate, informal and less expensive setting. We’ll keep you posted as plans evolve.

Your contributions and dedication continue almost six decades of excellence at ASES. Thanks to all of you.

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