SOLAR 2018: Look Who's Coming to Boulder

SOLAR 2018, the 47th annual ASES National Solar Conference and Summit, is set for Boulder, Colorado, August 5-8, and promises a full agenda of fast-paced presentations and dialog among participants from every corner of the solar field, nearly every state and a few other countries, too.

BOULDER, Colo., May 15, 2018 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- SOLAR 2018, the 47th annual ASES National Solar Conference and Summit, is set for Boulder, Colorado, August 5-8, and promises a full agenda of fast-paced presentations and dialog among participants from every corner of the solar field, nearly every state and a few other countries, too. The planning group for this year's conference decided to keep the visitor-friendly size (between 300 and 400 attendees) and many popular features from last year's successful event, but to move it up the Front Range, from Denver to the University of Colorado Boulder, and to raise the expected impact, too, as we explore some of the biggest challenges confronting a swift, clean renewable energy transformation.

Under the theme, Pathways to Renewable Energy Transformation, this conference will take a close look at what it takes to succeed at:

Broadening access to renewables, to give everyone a choice and a voice
Orchestrating new energy systems, including renewable-based electrification in every sector
Promoting solar for climate resilience, preparedness and recovery
A Choice and a Voice

Since the early days of solar and wind development, the public has viewed these resources as compatible with community self-reliance, environmental improvement, and economic opportunity for all. But in the time-critical rush to renewables, it is easy to fall into patterns of "business as usual". How do we make sure that the clean energy transformation is truly equitable and supportive of democratic ideals? During a full-day focus on Broadening Access to Renewables, SOLAR 2018 speakers and participants will explore the value of diverse racial, gender, age-based, economic and political perspectives on the renewable energy transformation and new ways to achieve far-reaching success.

Rob Wallace, CEO of the Baltimore-based solar training and community redevelopment program, Power 52, will be the featured keynote speaker for this track. Rob is also a board member for Vote Solar and a leader in the American Association of Blacks in Energy. As a solar developer/project manager, he has facilitated more than 100 MW of solar projects in the U.S. and Africa. Rob co-founded Power 52 with real-estate developer Cherie Brooks and retired Baltimore Ravens linebacker, Ray Lewis.

Sandra Begay, a veteran solar engineer at Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico also will speak. Sandra heads Sandia's Tribal Energy Program and an innovative internship program, which prepares students from many tribes to gain first-hand experience and to pursue professional careers in STEM. Sandra aims to change the image of today's engineers, encouraging more women, in particular, to apply technical skills and creativity to today's clean energy and environmental problems.

Broadening access to solar also means designing projects, like community solar, that suit multiple community needs and creating financing solutions for more solar customers. An impressive line-up of speakers on these topics includes Sandhya Murali, of Solstice, a women-owned start-up that has used new financing and customer-support tools to complete 15 community solar projects to date in three Northeastern states. Other financing panelists include Blake Jones, co-founder of the national Clean Energy Credit Union, which has been fostered by ASES, to help consumers pursue renewable energy, energy efficiency, and energy conservation projects. As founder of one of Colorado's most successful solar companies, Blake was an Ernst & Young "Entrepreneur of the Year" award recipient in 2010.

A number of speakers from Boulder-based Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) will be joining the discussion, too, including Coreina Chan, who heads up RMI's Electricity Innovation Lab (ELab). Coreina also co-authored a recent RMI report on its Leap program. Leap adapts high-value solar innovations for use in disadvantaged communities. According to Chan, "Clean energy access for low-income customers is an innovation frontier."

Interdisciplinary and At Times, Mind-Bending

Progress along each of the three featured pathways will require participation from a broad-based community, represented by the typically interdisciplinary audience at the ASES National Solar Conference. In fact, planned presentations and dialog for the track on Orchestrating New Energy Systems will be both interdisciplinary and—at times—mind-bending. For example, why promote electrification? Most people are used to thinking of electricity as less desirable than natural gas as a way to heat their homes or run industrial processes. But with greater solar and wind generation, electricity becomes the clean option, and electrification is a pathway to dramatic carbon reduction. Adding a diversity of electric uses actually makes it easier to manage the natural variability of renewable resources. Building design that reduces energy needs and passively stores heat plays a role, too. Strategies for promoting electric vehicles (EVs) are included, as electrifying transportation becomes a new priority. According to EIA, fossil-fueled transportation surpassed electric utilities as the top source of U.S. carbon emissions in 2016, underscoring the importance of getting EVs right. At SOLAR 2018, we will ask our community, "What combination of design-thinking, technology, market intelligence policies and grassroots action are most needed to achieve low-carbon, high-renewables energy systems nationwide?"

Keynote speakers on this topic will include Skip Laitner, an ACEEE Fellow, former climate-policy economist for the U.S. EPA, and an advisor on energy strategies that recognize the importance of both hard numbers and human nature in redesigning a sustainable, low-carbon energy system. Paul Bony, Renewables Program Manager for ClearResult and President of the training institute, Solar Energy International, will take on the topic of clean electrification in terms that everyone can understand.

Other featured speakers include Joe Bourg, a solar veteran who has recently worked for California-based Olivine, Inc., on perfecting the balance of grid-tied solar, storage and load management systems to achieve economic and resilience goals. Researchers from the National Renewable Energy Lab will engage in the discussion, too, with speakers including Lori Bird and Kristen Ardani, representing NREL's new Solar Energy Innovation Network, which supports interdisciplinary local-government and private-sector teams piloting new, integrated energy systems.

On the transportation front, Will Toor, a program director for the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project and former Boulder County Commissioner will lead a discussion of technical advances and market options for trucks, public transit and personal EVs.

Resilience and Regeneration

A third track at SOLAR 2018 addresses the difficulties of life in the "new normal," of climate-induced emergencies and other present dangers. The day-long exploration of Solar for Resilience, Preparedness and Recovery (RPR) invites participants to consider the risks and remedies for year-round storms, floods and droughts, extreme temperature conditions and other, non-climate risks. U.S. weather disasters alone cost more than $300 billion in 2017, according the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and that does not begin to reflect the disruption and heartache in places like Houston, TX; Santa Rosa, CA; Minneapolis, MN and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Keynote speaker for this track, David Fahey, Director of the Chemical Sciences Division in NOAA's Earth System Research Lab, will lay out the bad news from the National Climate Assessment, but he will also talk about how rising climate risks frame the future role for solar energy.

Victor Olgay, an architect and director of the buildings practice at RMI, along with Thomas Doerr, architect and author of Passive Solar Simplified, will remind conference participants that community resilience begins with good design. Alison Mason, an ASES Fellow and CEO of SunJuice Solar, on work underway to apply solar and micro-grid design to serve storm-ravaged communities in Puerto Rico, and Robi Robichaud, an NREL Research Scientist apply "island solutions" to sustainable community design on any scale. Conference participants also will be encouraged to check out an array of products, from solar chargers for computers and phones to solar lamps, radios and kitchen appliances that are the focus of the ASES "Tiny Watts" campaign. These devices are fairly affordable, and some should be in every household's disaster recovery kit.

ASES will also introduce a special guest speaker, Hunter Lovins, founder of Natural Capitalism Solutions, co-founder of Rocky Mountain Institute, and distinguished author and presenter. Hunter will draw the frame larger, and inspire hope for sustainable communities, nurtured by an emerging regenerative economy. This theme, developed in A Finer Future, which Hunter recently co-authored, is a call to action for people from all corners society and especially from the solar community.

The final day, Wednesday August 8, will focus on different interpretations of the call to action, including primarily a policy focus. Slated speakers include Jessica Scott, Western States Director for Vote Solar, who will use her experience marking solar progress in Nevada as a model for organizing pro-solar campaigns nationwide. A session also will feature a lightning round of updates from states (Arizona, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio) and from grassroots projects, featuring low-income and tribal community organizers from coast to coast.

ASES plans to document core-track presentations and interactive Summit sessions, and the final day will also be polling and discussion among Conference participants, led by ASES Board Member and solar veteran Jill Cliburn, to help answer questions about what we have and what we need as a national membership organization with a powerful pro-solar mission. As one outcome of SOLAR 2018, ASES plans to publish a Pathways to Renewables Special Report this fall. Findings will be publicized through Solar Today magazine, social media and relationships with other groups mobilizing for the renewable energy transformation.

Besides engaging in new content, check out favorite recurring panels and events at Solar 2018:

Opening Reception, recognizing Boulder's remarkable progress toward sustainability goals, with Mayor Suzanne Jones
ASES Chapter Caucus
ASES Annual Membership Meeting
ASES Awards Banquet and Fellows Reception
Women in Solar Energy (WISE) Luncheon
Poster Breakfast
Solar Forecasting Panel
PV Technologies and Systems Panel
Solar Thermal Panel
Solar Cooking Demonstration
International Solar Applications
Solar in Your Community Challenge Workshop
Tours of RMI, NREL and more
Solar Circus Celebration open to the general public

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