Southeast Women in Solar, 2016 #nationWISE Event

SACE staffers Allie Brown and Anne Blair also contributed to this post.

Earlier this month, we blogged about that national solar roundtable discussion called #nationWISE. Over 600 professionals all over the country gathered at 17 different locations on Tuesday, February 23, to discuss the development of the solar industry and the part we all play in that development. While the overall goal of WISE is to promote diversity within the solar industry, the discussions at the different events covered a wide range of solar topics including diversity, relevant to each local market.  Here is a quick recap from two events in the Southeast where SACE participated: Atlanta, Georgia, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

 

ATLANTA, GEORGIA

SACE staffers, Anne Blair and Allie Brown, attended the WISE event in Atlanta held at 5 Seasons Brewery. The turnout was a huge success, with over 75 women and men in attendance. Participants represented a broad range of solar professions including non-profits, utilities, finance, installation and development and operations. The event featured a panel of women playing a key role in advancing solar energy in Georgia. These women discussed their work and offered advice to women interested in the field. With 241 solar companies in Georgia and solar energy installations rapidly expanding across the state, the panelists highlighted what an exciting time it is to be in the solar field.

Jamie Barber, staffer with the Public Service Commission, discussed her role working with the Commissioners and Georgia Power to secure more renewables in the utilities’ portfolio. Our nonprofit colleague, Jennette Gayer with Environment Georgia, shared her experience advocating for solar power in Georgia and highlighted that last year the U.S. brought more solar power online than fossil fuels. Gayer also stressed the need for more women serving in the Georgia legislature and highlighted the absence of women serving on the Georgia Public Service Commission. The other panelists were Mary Britton with Hannah Solar and Brooke Starr Haman with Georgia Power, who shared their interests and paths into the field and advice on working in this male-dominated sector.

Hard work, mentorship, and credibility were some of the key pieces of advice for success offered by the panelists. They encouraged young women to be confident, and dive right in to the industry. There are opportunities available in policy, communications, engineering, planning, law, finance and more. The Atlanta event concluded with a happy hour networking experience for women to connect and build relationships.

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA

Photo Credit Tsukuro/Jon Selvey

Later in the evening, the Fort Lauderdale group met at an ocean-side sushi lounge called Tsukuro, with about 40 attendees and some special quests – National Geographic, filming for Years of Living Dangerously, and Cecily Strong, known from Saturday Night Live and currently working as a correspondent with National Geographic. The Florida event was sponsored and organized by Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Women4Solar, with co-hosts Alissa Schafer (SACE) and Raina Russo (Women4Solar).

After some opening remarks from Alissa and Raina, the event kicked off with a spirited panel discussion and followed up with group questions, including one from Cecily Strong, comedian and actress at Saturday Night Live. The panel was moderated by Alissa and featured three unique solar perspectives: Katie Ullman, Director of Global Marketing and Communications for Conergy, Debbie Dooley, founder of Conservatives for Energy Freedom, and Kathe Thompson, Board Director of Natural Resources for League of Women Voters of Palm Beach County.

Photo Credit Tsukuro/Jon Selvey

While a portion of the discussion focused on ways that we can continue to ensure diversity in the growing solar industry, the majority of questions, answers, and comments centered around the general lackluster state of solar in the Sunshine State, and all the work that we have to do to keep moving forward. Debbie discussed the immense job creating potential that exists in the solar industry, and both Katie and Kathe emphasized that an important key to encouraging diversity moving forward is to make sure that we are consciously including a wide range of people in our discussions about solar. The evening’s event was a great example – as we discussed local and regional challenges and opportunities in the solar market, the conversation included women, men, and even children! The general consensus is that we must continue to lead by example and invite others to join in these important conversations with us.

Given that the Southeast continues to be a battleground for solar, it is more important than ever that we all continue to work together on the issues that really matter. SACE was honored to be able to participate in both the Atlanta, Georgia and Fort Lauderdale, Florida events, and looks forward to continuing these discussions moving forward.

For even more photos, check out the full #nationWISE album on WISE’s Facebook page here.

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