The Solar Women Summer Series continues with Danielle Sheppard, Business Development Associate at Locus Energy headquartered in San Francisco, CA.
What do you do in the solar industry? How’d you get started?
My first experience in the solar industry was an entry-level project management role at Locus Energy, Inc., a monitoring and analytics provider for the residential, commercial and utility-scale solar PV markets. Locus’ data acquisition hardware and cloud-based software platform enable solar installers and O&M providers to effectively manage a distributed fleet of solar assets. This position was an amazing opportunity to gain hands-on experience in solar, and helped me to develop a strong foundation of knowledge and a highly specialized skillset. My subject matter expertise now covers revenue grade and inverter monitoring, site commissioning and grid interconnection, home networking, cellular device management, enterprise software, and even REC markets.
Three years later, I’m still at Locus Energy and am now working as a business development associate. At a high level my role at Locus involves managing existing accounts, developing strategic partnerships, and delivering solutions that drive operational efficiency for our customers. In practice this means that I work with each of our partners to understand their unique approach to post-installation fleet operations and maintenance, then I put together a tailored set of hardware, software and analytical tools designed to make their jobs easier.
Is what you’re doing now related to what you wanted to do when you were 5 years old?
Long before I solidified an interest in renewable energy, I aspired to be an architect, a biochemist, and even an Olympic athlete. In college I studied environmental policy and sustainability, which has taken me from the nonprofit sector to the solar industry.
Although my career goals have certainly evolved over time, I couldn’t be happier with what I’m doing now!
What does a day in the life of a Business Development Associate at Locus look like? What’s your favorite part of the job?
One of the great things about working at a small company, especially as a young professional, is the chance to take on a diverse set of responsibilities. A few of the interesting projects I’ve taken on include coordinating a major product launch, hosting training webinars, and drafting service agreements for new customers. As the solar industry is in a state of constant growth, my role has developed considerably over time. My day to day is extremely varied, with new and exciting challenges around every corner.
My favorite aspect of the job has been the opportunity to interact with a wide range of industry stakeholders. I’ve worked closely with financing providers and solar installers, SREC aggregators and utility administrators. Each interaction provides fresh insights into the industry as a whole, better allowing me allowing me to help each new partner address the complex challenges they bring forth.
Any specific people or companies who have helped you grow in this industry? Personally? Professionally?
Absolutely! I’ve developed a great network of peers, advocates and mentors over the years, all of whom have contributed significantly to my personal and professional development.
Lee Kane, EcoCzar, Mission and Culture Coach at Whole Foods Market, is a close friend and mentor who has shown me how to translate sustainability principles and theories into action. I’m very grateful for his support!
Furthermore, the team at Locus has helped me develop tremendously by providing a supportive learning environment which allowed me to take on big projects, thereby forcing me to step out of my comfort zone. I feel incredibly lucky to work with such a great group of talented and smart individuals.
Finally, I should acknowledge that some of my most impactful conversations and professional relationships are a result of reaching out to chat with new people over coffee.
An extensive portion of your background is in sustainability and renewable energy research undertakings. Tell us a bit about your experience examining these fields.
Prior to joining Locus I completed several research fellowships that centered on identifying and evaluating effective strategies for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Much of this work focused on innovative policies and initiatives at the federal, state and local level.
One fellowship, sponsored by the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement, led me to Copenhagen, Denmark to examine the role of carbon-neutral public transportation. When I began to dig into the factors that have facilitated Denmark’s aggressive renewable energy development, such as skyrocketing oil prices in the 1970’s and limited domestic fossil fuel reserves, I became inspired to drive similar change within the United States. This experience was ultimately what catalyzed my desire to enter the solar industry.
What is one solar project that you’re super excited about right now? This can be one you’re personally involved in, or simply one you’ve heard about.
I’m particularly excited about the rise of the community solar model. These are projects built to allow a group of individuals to own a percentage of the panels or claim a portion of their energy output – it’s like Community Supported Agriculture (CSA’s) for energy. This model promises to reduce many of the common barriers to entry for going solar. With community solar projects, customers who may not have the ideal roof for solar can invest in panels installed elsewhere!
What are your 3 favorite resources, books, etc. for someone interested in joining the solar industry?
Listen: ‘The Energy Gang’ podcast, produced by Greentech Media.
Read: Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era by Amory Lovins
Creating Climate Wealth: Unlocking the Impact Economy by Jigar Shah
Follow: Greentech Media, PV Solar Report, Renewable Energy World, and Solar Server
What are some tips you might share for women trying to get involved in the industry?
“My biggest recommendation is to put yourself out there and get involved. Attend as many lectures, discussion panels and networking events as possible. These are valuable opportunities to make new connections and learn about the solar industry.”
Some of the many organizations worth checking out are Grid Alternatives, Young Professionals in Energy, and WISE – Women in Solar Energy.
Do you have any free tools to share with the HeatSpring audience? How can our readers become involved with Locus Energy? Are you hiring?
Locus is actively hiring for several positions, and I would highly encourage anyone interested to check out our careers page at careers.locusenergy.com!
What are three qualities someone trying to break into the solar industry needs to have?
- Strong analytical skills and technical aptitude
- A drive to learn new things
- The ability to adapt
What do you like to do outside of work?
I enjoy spending my free time camping along the beautiful California coastline and mountains, wine tasting in Sonoma, and visiting the local farmer’s market to stock up on produce for making jam and pickles!
- Learn more about Locus Energy
- Attend SolarWorld Installer Summit in Portland, OR
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- Learn more about women in solar via RenewableEnergyWorld.com(the exclusive media sponsor of this summer series!)
- Check out the National Women in Solar Initiative webcast series hosted by GRID Alternatives and SunEdison
- Free Tool: 2015 Solar Startup Guide by Chris Williams
- Join Women in Solar Energy (WISE)
- Use our Free Solar Comparison Tool when comparing solar proposals for homeowners
- Free Course: Solar PV Design, Code, Economics, Sales and Site Visits with Chris Williams, Christopher LaForge, Ryan Mayfield
- HeatSpring Course: Solar PV Installer Bootcamp Training + NABCEP Entry Level Exam Prep with Fred Paris
- Learn the financial modeling background and perspective often lacking in deal negotiations by taking our Solar Executive MBA Training Course with Keith Cronin and Chris Lord
- Free Course: How to Use Solar Leases to Grow Your Solar Business with Chris Williams