Expanding Horizons: Shaping the New Energy Economy

By Madelion Brinkley

Solar San Diego
ASES solar conferences include opportunities for solar supporters of all ages to learn from each other and experience solar technologies firsthand as these attendees at SOLAR 2008 in San Diego, California, demonstrate. Image: DanBihn.com

Solar professionals, researchers, and advocates will gather at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel in State College, Pennsylvania, from July 28-30 for the American Solar Energy Society’s (ASES’) 44th annual conference. These annual ASES events are the longest-running solar conferences in the United States.

Under the theme “Expanding Horizons: Shaping the New Energy Economy,” SOLAR 2015 will celebrate past accomplishments and explore future trends. For decades, ASES conferences have brought together solar supporters, scientists, and emerging professionals to exchange ideas, network, and attend cutting-edge workshops, presentations, and demonstrations.

Conference Highlights

SOLAR 2015 will include technical sessions, networking events, lightning talks, poster sessions, a solar tour, and a Solar for Disaster Relief workshop. Students attending SOLAR 2015 will have the opportunity to explore pre-publication research, engage in discussion and debate on innovative and developing technologies, present student research, interact with other emerging professionals, and meet industry leaders.

switch~SOLAR 2015 is an exciting addition to this year’s conference. switch~ is about sharing sustainable energy ideas in an engaging, rapid-fire format. The switch~ format involves five-minute presentations of 20 auto-advancing slides. The speaker has little time and no slide control! The objective is to present a story or idea about energy or sustainability that inspires and excites an audience of energy professionals and others involved in building a sustainable energy future. The “lightning talks” concept is similar to TEDx and Ignite. switch~ is a place for energy change-makers to spread leading-edge ideas and network with other clean energy professionals who are driving social change and industry innovation.

Solar Conference
ASES conferences offer multiple networking opportunities. Image: DanBihn.com

ASES will also host an Emerging Professionals Reception to kick off our mentorship program. This gathering will be followed by the annual Awards Banquet. And—by popular demand—we are bringing back the Women in Solar Energy (WISE) luncheon to honor leading women in the solar industry.

In another notable development, the Amicus Solar Cooperative will introduce the Clean Energy Federal Credit Union, through which ASES members can obtain financing for clean energy installations (see page 14). Attendees will have the opportunity to question Amicus staff about the new credit union.

Solar Fest, the Wednesday evening party, will feature entertainment and food. The dynamic duo of Robert Ferry and Elizabeth Monoian, founders of Land Art Generator Initiative (landartgenerator.org), will give a non-traditional presentation of solar art in public places.

Congenial, Solutions-Oriented Event

Paulette Middleton
Paulette Middleton, longtime ASES volunteer and past board member, shares a conversation with Neal Lurie, former director of marketing for the American Solar Energy Society, at SOLAR 2009 in Buffalo, New York. Image: DanBihn.com

Paulette Middleton is an atmospheric scientist who has partnered with ASES for more than 15 years on the National Organizing and Technical Review Committees. She describes SOLAR 2015 as a real-world conference focused on solutions.

“SOLAR 2015 will bring together a wide variety of people in a collaboration of researchers, professionals, educators, and enthusiasts,” she says. “This diversity of interests and expertise makes the discussions very lively and innovative and the presentations very robust.”

ASES solar conferences are well known for the congenial atmosphere, networking opportunities, and personal and professional connections that endure long after the event. According to Middleton, attendees can expect probing questions during sessions that might include, “How do we put all this together? What are the challenges involved in effectively integrating solar into grids around the world? How do you keep energy reliable 24/7 and find creative ways of managing the grid?”

Featured Speakers

SOLAR 2015 offers an impressive lineup of speakers. John Perlin, author and noted solar historian will discuss his latest book, Let it Shine. In this book, Perlin makes it abundantly clear that solar energy has a long and glorious past that serves as a prologue to its bright and diverse future. Far from being a disruption of the current energy economy, solar power can be harnessed in thousands of ways, making it easy to embrace and integrate.

“The book tells the story of evolution in all solar applications beginning in the Neolithic (New Stone) Age, when the Chinese began to purposefully design their homes to capture heat,” according to Perlin.

Let it Shine goes on to describe the evolution of the solar technologies we use today and demonstrates how older technologies are still relevant and can be improved using modern analytics.

Asked how emerging professionals fit into the rapidly evolving world of solar energy, Perlin says, “There is infinitely more opportunity now because demand is so high. In 1980, there were 1 million watts of solar panels installed and now there are 160 billion. Young people who want to make a living in solar have a greater foundation to jump off from, into a bigger sea than ever before,” according to Perlin.

ASES-Solar Conference
Technical sessions at ASES conferences allow attendees to discuss cutting-edge research with solar scientists. Image: DanBihn.com

Karl R. Rábago, executive director of the Pace Energy and Climate Center at the Pace Law School in White Plains, New York, is another of SOLAR 2015’s plenary speakers. During his impressive career, Rábago has served as a commissioner on the Texas Public Utility Commission, deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Energy, and managing director and principal of the Rocky Mountain Institute.

Closer to the Penn State venue, John Hanger, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s Secretary of Planning and Policy, will also speak at SOLAR 2015. Before joining Wolf’s administration, Hanger was the secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection from 2008 to 2011.

SOLAR 2015 is open to all solar professionals, supporters, and enthusiasts. To register, go to ases.org/conference.

Madelion Brinkley is an ASES intern.

Conference Session Topics

SOLAR 2015 sessions are organized around five major topics.


• Energy Economics
• Next Generation Data
• Solar Forecasting—Beyond Global Horizontal Irradiance
• Emerging Roles of Energy Storage
• Distribution Grids: Policy, Utilities, Microgrids, Markets
• Transmission Grids: Transmission, Generation Flexibility, Markets
• Cybersecurity
• Impacts of Clean Air Act 111(d)
• Environmentally-Aware Buildings

: Passive solar and resilient, regenerative strategies in the built environment for our communities

• Resilient Regenerative Low-Energy and Low-Carbon Architecture
• Community and Solar
• Energy Modeling and Simulation Tools
• Monitoring Post-Occupancy Evaluations
• Embodied Energy and Life Cycle Assessment
• Daylighting Methods and Case Studies

SMART SYSTEMS INTEGRATION: Smart energy systems and their effect on energy economics

• Buildings
• Transport
• Communities
• Grids

ENERGY-WATER-FOOD NEXUS: Whole systems interdependence and resilience framing the concept of a solar ecology

TRANSFORMATIONS IN ENERGY EDUCATION: Innovations in solar, sustainability, and building science education

• Interdisciplinary Approaches in Education
• Modern Methods and Online Education
• Sage of the Stage vs. Guide on the Side
• Service-Based Learning and Social Entrepreneurship

SOLAR 2015 is open to all solar professionals, supporters, and enthusiasts. To register, go to ases.org/conference.

About ASES

Established in 1954, the nonprofit American Solar Energy Society (ASES) is the nation’s leading association of solar professionals and advocates. The ASES mission is to inspire an era of energy innovation and speed the transition to a sustainable energy economy. It pursues its mission by advancing renewable energy education, research, and policy. Along with International Solar Energy Society, ASES celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2014.

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