By Seth Masia November 25, 2013
The American Solar Energy Society (ASES) has come through a difficult year, but with some significant belt-tightening we’ve achieved financial stability. The past two ASES National Solar Conferences were well-attended and successful as programs, but lost money on logistics (hotel room and meeting room costs). We closed the Baltimore conference with considerable debt.
Since then, ASES has slashed operating costs by roughly 85 percent, largely by reducing executive salaries and moving into smaller offices. We’ve reduced our debt by 30 percent, and are on a glide path to be debt-free by October 2014.
Despite the budget cuts, ASES has maintained our key programs.
SOLAR TODAY magazine continues to bring you technically accurate, in-depth coverage of a broad range of renewable energy topics, reaching an audience of more than 30,000 readers with each issue. Our email trade bulletin, Solar@Work, now reaches more than 10,000 subscribers. Solar Citizen, the newsletter for local solar action, goes to an audience of more than 42,000 advocates. Thanks to the hard work of enthusiastic volunteers, the 18th Annual ASES National Solar Tour went forward with about 5,000 tour sites across the country. ASES, in short, communicates its mission to about 80,000 people each month, and to as many as 150,000 over the course of a year.
However, our core membership is small. Since the beginning of the recession, we’ve lost about half our paying members. Like National Public Radio, ASES receives contributions from only about 10 percent of its enthusiastic audience. In collaboration with our 42 chapters, we are taking steps to broaden our membership quickly. You’ll hear more about these programs very soon.
Late in 2014, ASES will celebrate its own 60th anniversary, and the 60th anniversary of the Bell Labs photovoltaic “solar battery” — the first commercially scaled photovoltaic (PV) device.
In October, volunteers in Boulder threw a birthday kick-off party, with participation by an impressive list of sponsors. We saw a lot of old ASES friends, including veterans of SERI, NREL and the local university labs, and many former ASES staffers. Thanks to Maureen McIntyre, Cindy Nelson, Kate Hotchkiss and Brooke Simmons for organizing the event, and to everyone who showed up to work the room.
Sixty Years of Solar
During the Boulder party, we were pleased to announce the launch of a new and ambitious ASES program: digitizing our archive of scientific papers.
Throughout its history, ASES has published original research on passive solar architecture, solar thermal technologies, PV, building and equipment efficiency, public policy and financial mechanisms — more than 10,000 papers in all. Most of this important archive is stored in cardboard boxes and unavailable to today’s research community. Meanwhile, a generation of young researchers are at risk of repeating work done 20 or 30 years ago. To achieve full traction in research and development, we need to get this archive out to the scientific community.
All of this research was published through ASES, but much of it was done in partnership with SERI, NREL and university labs operating with federal funding. The material should therefore belong to the public and should be made broadly available. It all needs to be converted to digital format and posted on the ASES website. ASES has retained Keya Lea Horiuchi to manage this project and she has already made significant design changes in the ASES and SOLAR TODAY websites to accommodate the technical archive.
To accelerate digitization of the ASES technical archive, and to assure a healthy future for the National Solar Tour and other outreach programs, ASES needs your support. Please get out and support your local chapter in advocating for progressive state and municipal energy policies (find a list of chapters at ases.org).
Consider making a tax-deductible contribution to ASES now, to reduce your 2013 tax bill. It’s the best way to support the research community and accelerate local action for renewable energy deployment. Donate today, at ases.org/donate.