Solar 2021

Policy, Education & Finance Track: Economic, Workforce, and Environmental Impacts

Session Moderator:  Gilbert Michaud

The growth of solar energy has helped stimulate a variety of positive impacts, ranging from economic to environmental. This session will examine these impacts, including workforce development through training programs, pollution mitigation, economic and fiscal implications, and impacts to the agricultural sector, by highlighting projects and circumstances from different regions across the United States.


Aug 04 2021


2:15 pm - 3:45 pm


East Ballroom


  • Gilbert Michaud
    Gilbert Michaud
    Ohio University

    Dr. Gilbert Michaud is an Assistant Professor of Practice at the George V. Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs at Ohio University. Overall, his research focuses on renewable energy policy, electric utility regulation, economic and workforce development, state politics, and public policy theory. He holds a Ph.D. in Public Policy & Administration from Virginia Commonwealth University.

    Presentation Title: Rural Workforce Development in the Face of Solar Energy Transitions

    Presentation Description: This research addresses an important, yet understudied, challenge many rural communities are facing as more and more utility-scale solar energy project proposals emerge. To adequately capture a larger share of the positive economic impacts from the ongoing energy transition, such areas benefit from having a prepared workforce. Our focus on the Midwestern U.S. is unique, and particularly compelling as large, flat agricultural land is often desirable for utility-scale solar projects. Our methods use accessible data, and provide an easy-to-understand tool for local practitioners concerned about workforce preparedness in the face of solar energy transitions.

  • Laura Rigell_
    Philadelphia Energy Authority

    Laura Rigell has led the Philadelphia Energy Authority (PEA)’s solar efforts since 2017. She developed and implemented the nation’s largest Solarize campaign, which helped build a residential solar market in Philadelphia. Laura’s work prioritizes equity, creating new vehicles to support solar for low- and moderate-income households citywide, and starting Pennsylvania’s first vocational high school solar program, Bright Solar Futures. Outside of PEA, Laura is active with Serenity Soular, a grassroots initiative designed to drive equitable solar jobs and installations in North Philadelphia. Laura has a BA from Swarthmore College and a Masters of City Planning from the University of Pennsylvania.
    Presentation Title: Bright Solar Futures: The country’s most advanced high school solar program

    Presentation Description: The solar industry is on a rapid growth trajectory at a pivotal moment in world history. The impacts of climate change are accelerating, and a bold response is urgently required to prevent its worst impacts. Structural racism continues to threaten the lives and wellbeing of people of color, and institutions across the world are making long overdue commitments to address the harm that has been caused.

    The solar industry is in the early stages of maturation, compared to the scale that would be required to have a material impact on carbon emissions. And the effects of structural racism are already starting to play out, as evidenced in the disproportionately low representation of people of color among solar workers and solar adopters. Yet, the growth potential of the industry, combined with recent commitments on diversity by industry leaders, creates an opportunity to reverse these trends and establish a new norm of equitable growth.

    Bright Solar Futures graduates will become the next generation of solar professionals, flipping the script on who which communities will lead the urgent clean energy transition.

  • Pallavi Madakasira
    New Jersey Economic Development Authority

    Pallavi Madakasira is the Director, Clean Energy at the NJEDA. In her role she helps shape the EDA’s efforts to ensure the State’s long-term competitiveness in Clean Energy. Her responsibilities include the roll out of grant programs, develop initiatives to create green jobs and serve as EDA’s relationship manager for stakeholders. Previously Pallavi was the Head of Strategic Marketing at Solvay developing new products and business models centered around sustainability. In her roles at Lux Research and Piper Jaffray, she advised Fortune 500 companies and institutional investors in clean energy. She has a master’s degree in physics from UT Dallas.
    Presentation Title: Spurring Economic Development in Clean Energy: New Jersey’s Approach to Decarbonization

    Presentation Description: BNew Jersey’s 2020 Energy Master Plan calls for a 100% transition to clean energy by 2050. From seed grants to startups, programs to incentivize medium and heavy duty electric trucks, and a plan to institute a Green Fund for the State, New Jersey is committed to identifying and solving for the gaps in the clean energy industry. This is driving a State-wide approach to create and nurture an innovation economy in clean energy that will drive meaningful and sustainable economic development with a focus on environmental justice.

  • Peter Jansson
    Faculty Director - Center for Sustainability & the Environment

    Dr Jansson is an Associate Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering at Bucknell University as well as the Faculty Director for the Center for Sustainability & the Environment
    Presentation Title: Sustainability Experiential Learning Laboratory – A Method for SELLing Photovoltaic Technology and Education to College Students

    Presentation Description: How can we rapidly accelerate the adoption of Photovoltaics (PV) to meet our urgent climate change and greenhouse gas reduction goals? Clearly by Engaging as Many People as Possible in using this critical technology! This paper describes work at our university to engage many disciplines from every college on our campus in an experiential learning opportunity with PV, so they can learn first-hand how easy it has become to deploy effectively. This work can easily be replicated on campuses around the world to accelerate the building of knowledge and advocacy for this critical climate change correcting technology.

  • Ralph Kaehler
    Novel Energy Solutions

    My son, Cliff, and I (4th and 5th generation family farmers by trade and upbringing), founded Novel Energy Solutions, one of the fastest-growing solar companies in MN. We have developed over 200 MW of CSG as well as installing over 150 arrays for farmers and commercial businesses.

    We are a one-stop-shop for community solar and own your own solar development. Our family opened agriculture trade with Cuba in 2002 (negotiated directly with Fidel Castro); sold the first Shorthorn cattle to China in 1997, and have opened the doors to many solar array owners in MN.
    Presentation Title: Bridging the Solar Gap with Farmers/Ranchers from a 4th generation farmer who is also a developer

    Presentation Description: Solar is good for agriculture. We need to re-frame the conversation with those who live off the land. We need to engage with them and get stronger buy-in for, and show the benefits of solar, in order to meet future demands.

    First, however, it is essential to understand the farmer’s and rancher’s perspectives. It is necessary to address their apprehension of the solar industry – from the farmer’s and rancher’s point of view. As 4th and 5th generation family farmers and solar developers, we bridge that gap. We do that every day.

  • Remilekun Akinwonmi
    Programs Associate at American Solar Energy Society

    My passion is exploring means to provide clean energy to meet energy needs via research and professional endeavors. I am a graduate of mechanical engineering from the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta, renewable energy enthusiast with experience in solar technology, HVAC and Facility management. My areas of expertise include Photovoltaic Systems Efficiency, Carbon offsetting and Climate Change Mitigation.
    Presentation Title: Design of Carbon Footprint Calculator

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