History of Alabama Solar Assocation
Alabama Solar Association (ASA) was founded by Alfred G. Orillion, P. E. in 1990. It rose like a Phoenix bird out of the remnants of two previous solar energy organizations, the Alabama Solar Coalition (ASC) and the Alabama Solar Energy Association (ASEA). These two non-profit, solar energy-oriented organizations formed independently during the mid-1970s oil crises.
OPEC had ordered a drastic reduction in oil production. In doing so, it unintentionally awoke a giant--the USA. The US quickly recognized its vulnerability to dependence on foreign petroleum. A swell of determination was generated by the American people to be energy-independent and never again be threatened by hostile governments. All of America was determined to find alternate energy sources. To that end, Alabama did its part. The University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH) was identified by the State as the Solar Energy Center for Alabama. Huntsville, being a progressive, technical town, had many who wanted to contribute to developing alternate energy sources to supplement petroleum. A group which included this author gathered and formed ASEA which was fully supported by UAH. Parallel to this effort, a group at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa formed ASC. Both organizations pursued the use of the sun’s reusable energy. Although some limited research into liquefying coal and biomass fuels for energy sources was done in conjunction with TVA, the emphasis was on solar.
Great interest in ASEA was shown by many in North Alabama. Much research and designs were done in academia, industry, and technical organizations herein. Many meetings, symposiums, demonstrations, and tours were conducted to describe uses of solar energy. A prime interest was the application of solar water heating systems to supplement the water heaters in all homes and businesses as a competitive energy source. The primary concept was the use of heavy (about 200 lbs.) collectors that typically were roof-mounted with various types of working fluids. Photovoltaics--materials that convert solar radiation into direct current (DC) electricity--were recognized, but the immature technology was prohibitively expensive. Those were great times with many having enthusiastic interest in being involved and sharing knowledge and skills. Talk was everywhere of inventions, improvements, and new methods to conserve and utilize solar energy. This author invented and obtained patents on a light weight solar concentrator for heating water (or other liquids) and photovoltaics. There was much interest in these concepts.
Then the bottom fell out, so to speak. OPEC saw the error of its ways as America was increasingly pursuing ways to obtain petroleum domestically. Gasoline and natural gas prices declined, and most all lost interest in alternate energy means. Consequently, industries ceased to manufacture solar energy apparatus. UAH resigned as the Solar Energy Research Center; Auburn University (AU) quickly picked it up. With fuel costs once again acceptable, most people developed other interests. ASC ceased and sent the remaining treasury funds to ASEA. This was in the mid- to late-1980s. In early 1990, this author, a past President of ASEA, received a phone call from a former member at UAH and was asked if something useful could be done with the remaining funds, a little over $700. This author, still having an interest in solar energy applications, arranged with the management of Huntsville Association of Technical Societies (HATS) to create a new organization named the Alabama Solar Association (ASA), a non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization. A logo and motto were derived. The logo: an “ASA" in the middle of a sunburst over Alabama. The motto: Established to Promote the Use of Our Sun’s Renewable Energy to Save Our Environment and Life on Earth.
By persuasion, others were encouraged to participate in new solar interests. Since the 1990s, interest in saving this planet has increased, and utilizing the clean, reusable, and free energy provided by the sun is a way to help. Interest in ASA activities tracks in direct proportion to fuel costs. Once again, participation is up. An organization such as this is directly dependent on active leadership and the promotion of interest in the association’s activities and goals. Increasing activities include talks, tours, displays, and publicity. ASA is now on the rise thanks to a Board of Directors (BoD) that is willing to do things. ASA is now active in educational displays at various shows and meetings. Generally, the public now has greater interest in solar energy applications; the future for ASA is great. We’re having fun! Come join us.