Reorganizing for Future Growth

By SETH MASIA

The American Solar Energy Society (ASES) is a member organization for the distribution of science-based information on renewable energy technology and policy, with the explicit mission of accelerating broad deployment of clean energy (including efficiency measures) in the United States and around the world.

In pursuit of that mission, ASES reaches a broad and expanding audience within the academic, engineering and scientific communities; in the consumer and wholesale markets for energy, energy products and services; among voters, elected officials and regulatory agencies at all levels of government.

Over its 60-year history, ASES has had strong relationships with government agencies and national laboratories, and has generated influential policy initiatives. The organization grew steadily during the decade leading up to the recession of late 2008, but has been slow to adjust to new economic realities and the consolidation of a fast-growing and fast-maturing industry.

ASES has now come through a trying year. We’ve had to shed staff and offices, but have managed to administer key programs: the ASES National Solar Conference, the publications and the ASES National Solar Tour.

The National Solar Conference, SOLAR 2014, returns to the West Coast this summer, in conjunction with the Intersolar North America exhibition and conference in San Francisco, July 6-10.

SOLAR TODAY, Solar@Work and Solar Citizen continue to command growing readership. Most of the audience is online, and does not pay to support production cost (editorial, design, cost of sales, connectivity, general overhead). The key to competing in a volatile market is membership growth. The organization, along with its chapters and technical divisions, must find a way to convert nonmember colleagues to paid membership and print circulation. We’ve already established an online discount program to encourage chapter members to join ASES (four chapters have already begun participating). Over the next year, the ASES divisions should take active management of the ASES Young Professionals Program, recruiting student members and converting them to professional members.

The National Solar Tour produces national sponsorship, and we are off to an early start with our first sponsor already on board (Thank you, Canadian Solar!). The tour website is a valuable resource to local tour organizers. We have already begun to promote the 2014 tour and expect to generate enough sponsorship this year to support distribution of posters, lawn signs and other items of value to tour organizers, homeowners and tour visitors.

The ASES archive — 60 years of scientific publications — has huge unrealized value to all ASES stakeholders and we’ve begun a process to digitize this content and make it avail- able online. We’ve redesigned the websites to accommodate this material and have moved to a faster, greener and server graciously hosted by Green House Data.

The real value of ASES is in content — that is, reliable science-based information of use to students, faculty, researchers, chapters, policymakers, regulatory authorities, voters, consumers, business owners and the financial industries.

The ASES Board of Directors has identified a critical need to develop formal relationships with academic institutions, possibly on the model of the relationship between the International Solar Energy Society and the Fraunhofer Institute. Academic affiliations will provide grant-writing partnerships, new opportunities for program development, new partnership relationships through government funding agencies, publishing and interning opportunities for students, venues for ASES events, library facilities for ASES archives and infrastructure for ASES administration/overhead functions.

Accordingly, ASES has entered into discussions with several universities with strong renewable energy departments, who have expressed interest in working with us. Preliminary informal discussions have been held with personnel at Penn State University. The discussions are not exclusive — as time and resources permit, ASES will investigate opportunities with other institutions. ASES intends to establish regular channels of communication between academic departments and ASES division members for the purposes of funding research and publication; and to maximize opportunities for ASES student chapters at a broad range of institutions.

Seth Masia is the executive director of ASES and the editor of SOLAR TODAY. Contact him at smasia@ases.org.

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