Solar Energy…in Cleveland

by Richard T. Stuebi

Last week, the American Solar Energy Society convened their annual national gathering in Cleveland.

Yes, that’s right: Cleveland. [OK, if you must, insert your joke here]

You might say that “Cleveland” and “solar” is an oxymoron. Coincident with an unusually sunny summer, many of us are trying to change that perception — and it seems like there’s at least some successes to report.

The current issue of the ASES magazine Solar Today profiles Cleveland’s growing efforts in a nice cover article. Just in the past two weeks, significant high-profile PV projects in downtown Cleveland were commissioned at Jacobs Field (ballpark for the Cleveland Indians) and at the Great Lakes Science Center.

Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the ASES solar conference in Cleveland was its attendance. During the annual public day, held on Sunday, over 3200 citizens milled through the exhibit floor (160 booths) and participated in workshops. This was more than double the showing for the public day at the previous year’s ASES conference — in solar-friendly Denver, no less.

No doubt, the great attendance was due in large part to the extensive coverage and promotion of the event by our local daily paper, The Plain-Dealer. Many thanks to them for helping spread the word. And, congratulations to the local organizing chapter of ASES, Green Energy Ohio, for putting on a good show.

Senior ASES staff and conference attendees were reported to be very pleased with their week in Cleveland. Perhaps they can see that Ohio can easily join our neighboring states to the east — Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland — to become part of what is already (as one speaker termed it) “the largest solar market on the planet”.

To be sure, I don’t want to over-hype the situation: with respect to solar energy, Cleveland is a long, long way from where California or Germany is. But, as BP used to say in its advertising, “It’s a start.”

Here in Cleveland, we cleantech advocates can’t rest on the modest accomplishments we’ve achieved so far — we need to keep pushing for more substantial progress. A strong renewable portfolio standard for Ohio, including a solar carve-out as our peers to the east have implemented, is clearly the next step.

Richard T. Stuebi is the BP Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at The Cleveland Foundation, and is also the Founder and President of NextWave Energy, Inc.

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