This Earth Day - Gather Shines some Light on its Solar Professionals

Posted by The Great Big Everything on Apr 19, 2019 6:50:29 AM


We're so fortunate to have so many solar entrepreneurs working out of our coworking spaces. Today is Earth Day and in celebration of that, we're so excited to shine a bright, bright light on some of our solar-industry professionals. We have quite a few, working across all three of our Gather locations! Included below is a good cross-section of all these bright thinkers. We asked them two questions -- 1) "Why are you in the solar industry?" and 2) "What message would you like to send to our readers who are on the fence about converting to solar?"

When we want to do a deep dive into the minds of our many coworkers, we're so lucky that all we have to do is reach out and ask. Thanks to our rad coworkers who are working in a field whose primary mission is to provide a better source of renewable energy... today is Earth's big day and we're certain that our planet is thanking you as well!

We're going to kick things off with Rachel at Secure Futures Solar. Take it away, Rachel!

Rachel Smucker with SECURE FUTURES SOLARGather Downtown Secure Futures combines state-of-the-art solar technology with an innovative business model to make commercial scale solar readily affordable in Virginia, helping customers to realize the economic, environmental and community benefits of solar energy.

Why are you in this field?
I'm in this field because I want to be a part of the transition to a more equitable energy system, one that provides equal access and equal opportunity to all Virginians to engage with and enjoy solar power. Solar and other forms of renewable energy are vital to our energy system now, especially as we seek to drastically decrease the impacts of climate change.

What message would you like to send to our readers who are on the fence about converting to solar
We need to deploy solar and other renewables at a much faster rate than what we are deploying currently, for the sake of future generations and our environment. Not only is solar great for our world and our communities, it is also now one of the most cost-effective fuel sources, beating out coal and oil in most scenarios. Pay it forward --- go solar!


Next up is Nicole who is also with Secure Futures!

Nicole Duimstra with SECURE FUTURES SOLAR - Gather Downtown

Why are you in this field?
I went to college and made the decision to switch majors from Business to Sustainability, because after learning about environmental issues plaguing our planet I knew there was no way I would be satisfied in a job that doesn't contribute to combating climate change.  The solar field is an ideal industry to work in because not only does it provide an opportunity to cut our carbon footprint, but it is also a booming industry.  Right now, the solar industry is the fastest growing field in the United States, and I am proud to be a part of it. 

What message would you like to send to our readers who are on the fence about converting to solar?
Solar is actually now considered a very cost-effective form of power production.  For the customers we serve, it is a win-win: not only do we ease their conscience by reducing their carbon footprint, but we also only go forward with a project when there are guaranteed long-term savings. For both business and homeowners, there are many ways to go solar while saving money.  Do yourself a favor and save some of your hard-earned cash - go solar!


Awesome! Thanks to both Rachel and Nicole with Secure Futures. Now we have Aaron over at Solar United Neighbors.

Aaron Sutch with SOLAR UNITED NEIGHBORS - Gather Scott's Addition Solar United Neighbors is the only organization in the country dedicated to representing the needs and interests of solar owners and supporters. See how [they’ve] been helping people go solar, join together, and fight for their energy rights since 2007.

Why are you in this field?
I got into solar by accident. I was graduate student studying in central America and had to fulfill an internship requirement. An internship in forestry didn't pan out and at the last minute my landlord connected me with a solar company in San Jose, Costa Rica. I found the work fascinating, I was lifting batteries, crawling on roofs, a lot of hands on grunt work- but I loved it .. Then I started to think about how important energy as literally the crux of nearly every environmental problem we face. Energy plays a role in either creating the problem or the solution. To this point solar and other renewable energy sources are revolutionary. My own motivation is that I want to be a part of either leading or facilitating this revolution in which humanity lives in balance with the natural systems that sustain our health and happiness. Right now our system is out of balance and needs to evolve. If we don't evolve, we won't survive. It's is simple as that. I've got a seven year-old son, so that makes the fight even more motivating.
What message would you like to send to our readers who are on the fence about converting to  solar? 
Solar is a generator with no moving parts, a free source of fuel and 30+ year lifespan of virtually maintenance free operation. The cost is coming down but the value is hard to quantify in simple terms. Solar United Neighbors focuses on distributed "rooftop" solar --the type of solar that directs control and benefits of energy production back to the consumer and local communities.  Out goal is to democratize our energy system so all people have an equal stake -- not just large monopolies or utility developers.  We're now doing programs here in Richmond and across VA in which homeowner and businesses adopting battery storage for resiliency in grid outages but also sizing solar systems to power their electric vehicles. It makes sense on multiple levels, but it's also one of the fastest growing sectors of jobs too. 




Aaron has deep experience in renewable energy and energy efficiency having worked in municipal sustainability leadership, policy & advocacy, and project management.


Thanks so much, Aaron! Next on deck is Andrew of CMTA Energy Solutions.

Andrew Krupacs with CMTA ENERGY SOLUTIONS - Gather Scott's Addition CMTA is a multi-services corporation founded in 1968 as a consulting engineering firm. CMTA expanded in 2012 to integrate expertise in energy efficient engineering and Design-Build construction to offer Performance Contracting services through [their] Energy Solutions division.

Why are you in this field?
To be honest, coming out of school, I wasn’t familiar with my specific line of work. I do electrical design for buildings, and I love it because I end up with a finished product I can be proud of. I get the opportunity to implement high energy efficient technologies as well as more sustainable designs to help combat climate change; this is by far the biggest reason I am passionate about what I do and it’s what keeps me working every day.

What message would you like to send to our readers who are on the fence about converting to solar?
The return on investment for solar with tax credits & incentives is roughly 6 to 9 years; the cost of solar is continuing to fall, and there is a clear return on investment for the owner. The solar panels and their inverters (additional component required in system) have an expected life span of upwards of 20 to 25 years now, and most power companies are required by law to reimburse you for any energy your panels feed back to the power grid.

Just as an example, my engineering firm, CMTA Inc, designed Discovery Elementary School in Arlington County. This school manages to sell power back to Dominion Power roughly 9 months out of the year. After their initial payoff period, they will essentially have free power for their building until the solar panels and their inverters degrade too much or break. This will end up saving the tax payers in Arlington quite a bit of money over time in energy.


Discovery Elementary School Interiors
DISCOVERY ELEMENTARY interior, courtesy



Links for Discovery Elementary School:

The last thing I want to leave you all knowing is that I understand that the upfront price & financing of solar can come across as very intimidating, but the math is on your side. Solar panels can be hidden away relatively cleanly on a roof, they generate power even in the winter, and the panels only degrade around 1% to 2% annually in output. Power companies are investing a lot of money in their own solar farms, and it’s absolutely worth it for homeowners too.


IMG_5132 (1)
Andrew Krupacs   
Electrical Engineer at CMTA, Inc.


Thanks, Andrew! To finish things off we have Adam of Urban Grid Solar.

Adam Thompson with URBAN GRID - Gather Short Pump Urban Grid is a leading developer of utility-scale solar power plants. Founded in Richmond, Virginia in 2011, with offices in Maryland, Virginia, Washington D.C. and London, Urban Grid has connected over 250 MW of solar projects and currently has more than 3,300 MW of utility solar project development underway. 

Why are you in this field?
The work that we do contributes to both real and direct positive benefits to our climate and environment, as well as supporting the ongoing transition from fossil fuel electricity generation to clean, renewable energy. Solar energy has become a truly effective way for individuals, corporations, small businesses and other electricity users to achieve cost savings on energy and contribute to overall economic development through job creation and tax revenue. It is rewarding to work for a company at the forefront of the transition to new and better technologies for generating electricity. The solar industry provides a constantly changing and exciting work environment. Solar often gets mentioned as the “future”, but for us working in the industry, it really is happening now, and that is rewarding to be a part of.

What message would you like to send to our readers who are on the fence about converting to solar?
· It is a clean, renewable source of energy which reduces your personal or your organization’s carbon footprint

· Unlike traditional electricity generation, there is no fuel cost.

· Solar can be effective at any scale (small rooftop to large utility scale)

· Solar PV electricity costs have fallen 73% since 2010, according to International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) making solar power competitive with conventional power sources

· For corporate customers solar can add significant financial benefit along with the “green” benefits.

· Provides hedge against volatile energy costs which makes budgeting easier

· Increases country’s energy independence

Provides companies competitive advantage with employees, customers, and investors/shareholders

urban grid solar


Adam Thompson
Adam Thompson, Vice President of Strategy & Origination at Urban Grid Solar


That wraps things up for this spotlight on some of our solar professionals. Thanks for joining us, and we hope we've given you some renewable food for thought. Happy Earth Day!