By Gina R. Johnson October 27, 2013
I was waiting at the airport’s baggage carousel one night shortly after I came to SOLAR TODAY in January 2004. A fellow passenger struck up a conversation by asking what I do.
I’ll never forget his amazement when I told him I work for the American Solar Energy Society: “Solar, they still do that?” I imagined the 1960s-era solar oven flashing through his mind.
What a difference a few years makes. In 2004, manufacturing a PV module cost around $4 per watt. Globally, 525 megawatts were being installed annually. Today modules cost as little as 50 cents per watt to produce, and the world added 31 gigawatts of solar capacity in 2012. The U.S. solar industry employs more than 119,000 Americans.
What’s more, support for solar energy is nearly universal. An October 2012 survey commissioned by SEIA found that 92 percent of likely voters believe the United States should develop and use more solar energy.
Yet with so much support for solar energy, shouldn’t ASES be as large as the Sierra Club, as powerful as the NRA?
What impressed me from the start about ASES is the fierce commitment of its members, volunteer leadership and staff.
During the past few months, as ASES has struggled to keep its programs running, we’ve seen our supporters mobilize once again. Members have dug deep into their pockets to help, board members have put in countless hours pondering new ways to keep the mission strong, sponsors have redoubled efforts to support ASES, and former ASES staffers are planning a rockin’ fundraiser, slated for October.
It’s not the first time supporters have rallied for ASES. Our beloved Dona McClain, the former ASES publications manager who passed away in November, would recall working through weeks without pay during the lean early ’80s, just to keep ASES going. But members and donors came through, and we went on to celebrate our 50th anniversary the year I joined the ASES staff.
As the nation’s leading association of solar professionals and advocates, ASES bridges the gap between solar researchers and practitioners. It does powerful outreach and advocacy through the ASES National Solar Tour, its annual conference, technical divisions, chapters and publications.
Most importantly, ASES gathers all of these interests in common cause. ASES is the original Big Tent.
2014 will mark 60 years of ASES. I’ve made the tough decision to move on to the next career challenge, but it’s never been clearer to me that this Big Tent is essential to realizing a healthy, pollution-free future.
What ASES does that no other group can do in just the same way is bring together people who view renewable energy and efficiency as our best shot for leaving a healthy world to our children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews. These are scientists and business people, teachers, students and families, all deeply committed to an economy based on technologies that are cost-effective today. We know we stand at a crossroads between the status quo and a future free from the devastating effects of climate change. And we know that it’s only by standing together that we have a hope of prevailing.
Like everyone who gets ASES in his blood, I’ll still be around, as a member of the Magazine Advisory Council, as an ASES Life Member — as one of those passionate supporters. If you’re a regular reader of this magazine, you’re one of us. More than ever, we need you, the lifeblood of ASES, to help sustain the organization and its future.
Please become a member or life member, give a gift membership or consider making a tax-deductible donation: ases.org. Help us ensure that the Big Tent continues our shared mission into its 60th year, and for 60 years to come.