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UnThink Solar
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Why I Donate Every Year to These Solar Organizations — What Are Your Favorites?

It’s that time of year again. For the last three years, I’ve consistently made a summer donation to The Vote Solar Initiative, the American Solar Energy Society (ASES), and Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC). This year, I’ve also added SolarPAC, the political action committee set up by SEIA. The amount I donate to each is not so much an obligation, but a thanks for the various services they provide to my business, to the American public, and really to our entire industry. 

I hope you’ll also realize their value to your own solar careers and businesses, and join me with some kind of annual commitment. I know there are other worthy organizations, so if you have favorites (some listed below), please send a monetary thanks as well.

So, why these four for me? It’s not an easy choice, but here are my personal reasons for why I’m grateful for their service to myself and for the solar industry:


IREC and its sister organization DSIRE are hands down the resource for tracking solar policies and solar incentives throughout the United States. I can’t believe there’s a single serious solar pro in the industry who hasn’t used that database at some point. In addition, IREC’s reports and renewable energy workforce development efforts are preparing our industry for growth. You know that info’s valuable, and while it’s technically free, it really does have a cost, so help them out. The more they do, the more informed you are with accurate info.

The Vote Solar Initiative

Adam Browning and his small team of solar policy advocates have a mission to get solar into the mainstream. They’re doing that through being solar policy advisers, researchers, advocates, and legislative watchdogs. If you aren’t signed up for their e-mail legislative alerts, do it now. They’ve helped to make some spectacular legislative solar wins across the United States that have helped the solar industry stay competitive and grow. Plus, you never want to miss one of their sessions at a solar conference, since their information is so valuable. That’s why I support them, and I hope you will too.


The American Solar Energy Society is the oldest solar advocacy organization in the United States. Since 1954, they’ve supported consumer solar adoption and solar entrepreneurs with valuable conferences, magazines, and other reports and media awareness. Plus, every year, they do their National Solar Tour, where solar homeowners open up their homes across the U.S., answering questions for those curious about going solar. As an advocate and solar marketer, I can tell you that it’s very powerful when consumers see solar in action and speak to neighbors about their experiences. These types of events boost solar awareness and adoption, so please thank them for their efforts on your behalf.


Finally, this year I’ve donated to SEIA’s SolarPAC. Now, I know there are large solar companies out there that have their own lobbyists and policy advocates, and that alone carries the weight of creating jobs and tax revenue. In fact, just one solar company being successful can benefit the entire industry when it makes national news… And yet, that same industry halo can also turn to darkness, as we all saw with Solyndra...

While my single donation won’t swing any elections, it does add to the pot of dollars that can support the campaigns of legislators that support the solar industry and have an objective view of the facts, not the politics. Together, we can make a difference through SolarPAC.

Other solar non-profits provide many services and advocacy for solar businesses. I haven’t donated to all of these organizations below, although I wish I could. I hope you’ll pick four of these below, or feel free to list your own four in the comments section with their respective web addresses and why you support them. Whichever you chose, know that the financial success of these organizations ultimately helps you too.

Grid Alternatives is the Habitat for Humanity of solar, giving both free training to solar advocates and reduced cost solar systems to low-income home owners who wouldn’t be able to afford solar. They're California-focussed for now. is the leading climate change advocacy organization led by solar and environmental advocate Bill McKibben. If you haven’t read McKibben’s recent article in Rolling Stone, it’s really worth your time.

The Carbon War Room, founded by Sun Edison founder Jigar Shah, Carbon War Room describes itself as a “Do-Tank,” as opposed to a think tank. It not only supports efforts and research for climate change policies, but also supports solutions that bring solar and other renewable energy sources to market. When you read something negative about solar, green jobs, or other renewables in the media and you want to check that claim, here’s a new resource. Use it and support it.

The Solar Foundation The Solar Foundation provides education, research, and advocacy. Like ASES, they help to get positive media attention for solar and to educate the public about solar energy today.

Solar Energy International SEI teaches and advocates for solar. I’m not only an alumnus, but I know many of its teachers, all dedicated solar pros. I recommend their courses and books to anyone interested in furthering their knowledge or entering the solar industry. Beyond their teaching, they’re also solar advocates and have several scholarship programs. Any way you choose to support them, it’s a good thing for the industry.

Of course, I could go on and on, so forgive me for leaving out so many worthy solar organizations. Once again, please feel free to enter your own favorites in the comments below and share why you support them.

Tor Valenza a.k.a. “Solar Fred” advises solar companies on marketing, communications, and branding. Contact him through UnThink Solar or follow him on Twitter @SolarFred.


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