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


West Ballroom


  • Gilbert Michaud
    Gilbert Michaud
    Assistant Professor of Practice, 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_
    Laura Rigell_

    Laura Rigell led solar programming for the Philadelphia Energy Authority (PEA) from 2017 – 2021. PEA is a municipal government entity driving the development of a robust, inclusive clean energy market in Philadelphia. Laura’s leadership resulted in the execution of the nation’s largest single Solarize initiative and launched the nation’s first 3-year vocational training program for high schoolers in solar installation. Her focus is at the intersection of climate change and equity, rooted in the belief that the transition to clean energy must include everyone. Laura is committed to ramping up solar adoption in the U.S. at the scale and pace required by the climate crisis, while benefiting marginalized communities. Laura’s commitment to this goal is evidenced by her extensive volunteer commitment as a founding member of Serenity Solar, a grassroots initiative to connect North Philadelphia residents with solar energy and jobs.

    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.

  • Milton Newberry
    Milton Newberry
    Sustainable Technology Director at Bucknell University

    Milton serves as the Director of the Sustainable Technology Program in the Center for Sustainability & the Environment at Bucknell University. Here, he guides the development and implementation of its vision and actions with the implementation of renewable energy projects (e.g., PV systems, green roofing, reforestation, etc.) on campus. With a love for teaching, he has extensive background in informal STEM education, sustainability, and environmental conservation. Additionally, he has a research focus in environmental stewardship motivations and barriers, DEIJ in environmental conservation, human dimensions of natural resources and agriculture, and sustainability and climate change perceptions. Milton collaborates with faculty in environmental engineering, electrical engineering, biology, history, and marketing in sustainability in enhancing their teaching, research, and outreach. Furthermore, he also works in program leadership and grantsmanship and evaluation, which has taken him to work in the environmental, sustainability, natural resource, coastal, and agricultural sectors.

    Sustainability Experiential Learning Laboratory – A Method for SELLing Photovoltaic Technology and Education to College Students

    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.

  • Remilekun Akinwonmi
    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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