What’s the future look like for solar and renewable energy? To answer that question and more, we talked to an expert at the American Solar Energy Society.
The American Solar Energy Society (ASES) is a leading nonprofit advocacy group for solar and renewable energy. Founded in 1954, ASES has led efforts to promote solar energy through programs, resources and conferences. The organization publishes the award-winning Solar Today magazine and hosts its annual National Solar Conference. The American Solar Energy Society conducts extensive research on solar energy and other sustainable technologies and publishes detailed reports explaining their findings to the public.
Last year, ASES published the Green-collar Jobs report, which showed that the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries currently generate more than 9 million jobs and $1 trillion in annual revenue in the United States. As many as 37 million jobs could be generated by 2030 — more than 17 percent of all anticipated U.S. employment. The Green-collar Job page gives tips on how to find a green job, whether you want to continue on your current career path or gain a whole new skill set.
The American Solar Energy Society broke ground on global warming solutions when it published a report in 2007 on how America can drastically reduce its carbon footprint by 2030. By employing renewable energy techniques, ASES says, 1.2 billion tons of carbon emissions could be displaced annually by the year 2030. That’s enough to prevent most dangerous consequences of global warming, such as rising sea levels and inclement weather.
ASES also hosts Findsolar.com, a website dedicated to providing resources for home and business owners interested in using solar energy.
To learn more about what the American Solar Energy Society sees for the future of the solar energy industry, I talked to Neal Lurie, the society’s director of marketing and communications.
Where does ASES see solar and renewable energy going?
While no industry is immune from the current global recession, the renewable energy sectors are well positioned for tremendous growth. The U.S. solar market was about $1.4 billion in 2007. We expect it could grow as high as $74 billion by 2030. Even in a worst-case scenario it would be about $14 billion by 2030, which would be a 10x increase. The new energy economy will play a key role in helping to get the economy back on track.
How has ASES evolved over the last 50 years?
The American Solar Energy Society was founded in 1954 as a way for researchers and scientists to share insights and ideas about renewable energy. It didn’t take long for ASES’ first members to realize the huge potential for finding new ways to harness the free energy from the sun. The technology was an obvious choice for use in the U.S. space program. Homeowners in rural and mountain regions also liked the idea of living off the electrical grid, especially where the cost to run new power lines was prohibitively expensive. The solar industry boomed in the 1970s. But after the incentives were cut in the 1980s, it was clear that solar professionals needed to do more than promote research and share good ideas. The industry needed to get better organized and keep driving down costs. Today, ASES is the leading association of solar professionals and grassroots advocates, speeding the transition to a sustainable energy economy.
What does the future look like for ASES? Any new programs or resources in the works?
The solar industry is changing at an unprecedented pace. The United States is likely to be the world’s largest solar market by the year 2013, if not sooner. Billions in federal and private investment are flowing to the industry. Policymakers and the general public no longer need to be convinced that solar energy is an economic generator. They hear about it in the news every day. They see their friends install solar technology on their homes. They see it at businesses. As the industry evolves, ASES continues to expand its efforts to reach the needs of wider audience. The ASES National Solar Tour, the world’s largest grassroots solar event, now reaches some 140,000 participants, providing a great opportunity to see how neighbors are using solar energy to reduce monthly utility bills and decrease carbon emissions. The 38th ASES National Solar Conference in May will cover the latest insights on how the industry is changing and where the new opportunities are today. Our Solar Today magazine continues to evolve with the times, highlighting how the industry is changing and where it is headed. Plus we continue to expand our advocacy efforts, industry research and communications programs.
What is your advice for someone who is just getting started with solar energy practices? Or someone who is interested in solar energy, but lives in an urban or rented space, or who cannot afford to install photovoltaic panels?
Now is an excellent time to go solar. Generous federal and state incentives can cover between one third and two thirds the costs of a solar installation, depending on the state. Solar costs have decreased by nearly 30 percent during the last year. Fossil fuel prices remain volatile. If you’re thinking about going solar, the first step is to begin educating yourself on the options available. Do you want to generate electricity, use the sun to heat water, or perhaps heat your pool? The ASES website is an excellent place to begin to find helpful tips, a list of solar installers, and information about rebates and incentives. And consider becoming an ASES member to help speed the transition to a sustainable energy economy! Also, a good local solar installer should come to your house to do a site evaluation to give you a better idea of options and costs, based on your needs. And don’t forget to explore what you can do to make your home more energy efficient – an energy audit can help with this. Even if you’re not ready to go solar, there’s no need to pay monthly utility bills that are larger than they need to be. People sometimes forget that they’re already paying hundreds or thousands of dollars a year for energy. When you go solar or make your home more energy efficient, you can start saving money right away.
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