In the 1990s, when Chris Brown was in high school, concerns about global warming sparked his interest in renewable energy.
He knew that climate disasters were in his future. “And I was convinced that it was inevitable that we’d deplete readily available fossil fuel resources and would need to adopt other sources of energy.”
Teaching Solar + Storage Courses Supports His Mission
Since then, Brown has achieved numerous firsts in the solar industry, and today is focused on helping people in the field add storage to their solar projects. To that end, he’s co-instructor, along with Christoper LaForge, of HeatSpring’s Utility Scale Commercial & Industrial Energy Storage 101 and Utility Scale Commercial & Industrial Energy Storage 201, which are designed for people working in renewable energy who want to learn about adding storage to their projects.
“Renewables have the challenge of intermittency,” he says. “To incorporate more renewables, the grid needs the stability that storage can offer.”
The Satisfaction of Spreading the Word
The most satisfying part of his work, he says, is sharing information with as many people as possible about how to incorporate storage.
Brown is uniquely positioned to spread the word.
After graduating from the University of Massachusetts, Brown decided to pursue the business side of renewables, thinking it was the quickest way to accomplish his goals. He joined the alternative energy company AltE, one of only a few renewable energy companies in the field in Massachusetts in 2005. He and his team sold renewable energy parts and components to people all over the world.
Learning About the Industry at Home and Abroad
“It was an exciting opportunity right out of college to be exposed to all these renewable energy systems. I gained domestic and international experience when I was young,” he says.
Working for altE, Brown struck up a friendship with a solar leader who, nearly 15 years later, would become his teaching partner at HeatSpring: Christopher LaForge. They met when altE enrolled Brown in a week-long training with LaForge through the Midwest Renewable Energy Association.
“That was my first formal training in renewables and the start of a 15- year friendship,” says Brown. “Chris LaForge had a similar outlook as me on the world: Renewable energy was absolutely necessary.”
In 2008, soon after the federal government extended and expanded the commercial and residential solar investment tax credit (ITC), Brown began working for solar PV manufacturer Kyocera, where the company took advantage of the ITC to invest in projects that were being developed and constructed using Kyocera hardware.
Deploying Products, Projects and Investment Capital
At the time, third party financing for renewable projects was hard to find. His work helped change that.
“We deployed our products and invested directly into solar projects when funding was scarce. Now there’s competition to finance projects,” Brown says.
From there, he joined Panasonic, which wanted to bring its solar modules and lithium ion batteries to market. “I carved out a sales and distribution channel that would allow Panasonic to sell integrated solar and storage,” he says.
But in his efforts to boost deployment of solar and storage, he encountered an obstacle: lack of controls that allow storage to yield optimal revenue streams. “This requires sophisticated software to understand the market signals for various services that energy storage can provide,” he says. The software helps users identify how best to deploy storage.
Opening up New Markets
In 2018, he decided to join Stem, which provides these controls. And once again, he made a big impact. “I helped Stem open up the East Coast market and was able to help them establish sales channels and front-of-the-meter product offerings,” Brown says. Recently, he has joined the team at Aypa, a developer, owner and operator of storage and renewable projects, and is engaged in utility and distributed generation projects across the U.S.
His mission continues. He has high hopes for the two solar and storage courses he recently developed with his friend LaForge.
“I hope the work we are doing at HeatSpring will help fulfill my dream. I want to get this information to a lot of people. If we do that, I will be very satisfied,” he says.