February 2000

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Solar Industry Professionals Urgently Needed to Maintain ASTM Standards
PARTICIPANTS needed on ASTM Subcommittees E44.04 on Solar Materials Performance, and E44.05 on Solar Heating and Cooling Subsystems and Systems, part of Committee E44 on Solar, Geothermal, and Other Alternative Energy Sources. Volunteers with knowledge of solar materials and/or “solar thermal” (solar heating and cooling systems) are sought to maintain existing standards and propose new standards.

The committee highly encourages involvement from members of the solar, plastics, and paint industries, as well as materials engineers, chemists, and persons specializing in organic materials and new product development. “Without new participation,” says E-44 Chairman Carl Osterwald, senior scientist, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, Co., “the existing twenty-odd solar thermal standards will be lost. This is the core reason we are trying to revive the activities.”

“Some of these standards are used outside of the solar thermal field,” he reports. “I had a call from someone in the glass industry who is using one of the .04 specifications for buying glass, Test Method E 903 [Test Method for Solar Absorptance, Reflectance, and Transmittance of Materials Using Integrating Spheres]. They had a question about a piece of apparatus and a subcommittee chairman was needed with knowledge of solar thermal. People are using these outside of solar thermal, so these are important standards to maintain.”

Formerly a solar industry researcher for NIST, Committee E-44 member Larry Masters is a weathering materials testing specialist and president of Atlas Weathering Services, Miami, Fla. According to Masters, a lack of funding and demand has caused the market for solar-based heating and cooling systems to dwindle, but solar standards development needs to continue.

“A big application 15 to 20 years ago was hot water heaters and space heating,” says Masters, who chaired Committee E44 in the 1980s. “There were systems that are both active, where heat in a solar collector dissipates directly to a storage facility or the building, and passive, through structural design and south-facing exposures where sunlight is used as a heat source. The vast majority of these systems are used for domestic hot water heating. A main focus was on retrofitting for hot water, swimming pool heating, and space heating. There were even tax incentives granted under the Carter administration for retrofitting and actually putting in space heating through solar. All that died. When there’s no incentive then to do it, interest quickly died. At least if we work on some sort of potential backup, from a standpoint of a strategy nationwide, that would be very good. But we tend to react more to a crisis than to strategic planning, don’t we?”

Regardless of current trends, ongoing maintenance and development of the solar materials performance and solar thermal standards of Committee E44 will lay the groundwork for inevitable adoption of alternative energy sources.

To participate or to comment, contact Carl Osterwald, National Renewable Energy Lab, 1617 Cole Blvd., Golden, CO 80401-3393 (303/384-6764; fax: 303/384-6790). Committee E44 meets Nov. 15-16, 2000, in Dallas, Texas. For meeting or membership information, contact E44 Staff Manager Melinda Long, ASTM (610/832-9736).