The American Solar Energy Society (ASES)has named Jeff Lyng the new chairman of the board. Normally, this would not be breaking news in my world except that he does not look the part of the leadership traditionally reflected of other executives in the solar and cleantech industries. In fact, his appearance marks a possibly exciting turn. He's young.
This isn't to rag on the experienced executives that have run the show in the non-profit and for-profit arms of the solar industry. We wouldn't be where we are today without the experience, expertise, and pioneering work these individuals have done. But the solar industry is turning over a new leaf; we are moving past the tie-dye and sandals and into suits and ties. The professionalism of the solar industry has arrived and a new generation of young entrepreneurs and professionals engaged in solar and cleantech is working its way through the system bringing new perspectives and problem solving skills to the table. This new generation represents a youth culture that has grown up with "being green" on the mind.
Jeff Lyng's appointment represents the arrival of young professionals in national leadership roles in solar and cleantech. Now, we can look up to someone just like us who engaged in professional activities related to sustainability and renewable energy right from the get-go and who has risen to a board-level position at a longstanding and prominent solar-energy non-profit.
This is also an exciting moment for ASES. The state of ASES has been on my mind a lot in the last few weeks as I and a number of my industry peers have grappled with a string of miscommunications from the ASES 2011 National Solar Conference. I will even admit that I have let my ASES membership lapse as it was unclear to me what benefit ASES was providing to me as a young professional in renewable energy and to the industry on a whole as competing networking and solar/cleantech-related non-profits and societies continue to pop up that provide me the contacts and professional growth opportunities I seek.
Questions swirl in my mind at this appointment:
- Will new youth-based leadership help ASES better reach, engage, and retain the membership of young people like myself?
- Does this transition represent a trend in the rise in the respect of the expertise of young professionals in solar and other cleantech fields?
- Will the voices and experiences of the young continue engagement efforts to re-enliven groups and societies serving the solar and cleantech sectors?
- What leadership opportunities can young professionals in cleantech expect to have available to them as our respective industries grow rapidly?