Top 35 Solar Influencers in the USA

The US is going through a period of unprecedented growth in solar energy. 58% of added electric capacity just from this past year came from solar, so let’s take a closer look at some of the names that are helping make the shift towards a carbon free grid.

Gabriel Cañadas

8 Sep, 21

Ever since the change in presidential administrations, the US has rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement and President Biden has made hefty commitments toward cutting domestic carbon emissions, mobilizing finance toward clean technologies, and supporting global neutrality goals, earning him the unofficial title of the Climate President in certain circles.

Amidst these policy commitments, the US solar industry is growing at record rates with over 102 GW of solar capacity already installed and the solar market being valued at 25.3 billion dollars. From here, strides in solar are projected to only increase threefold in the next decade with more and more people getting their energy from clean sources.

Now, here’s our list of influencers in the US photovoltaics space. It is worth noting this list is not a ranking, but rather a collection of some names we think are setting in motion some of the biggest projects, most powerful initiatives, and catalyzing ideas within the solar industry through the positive work of their organizations and platforms.  

Steph Speirs

Influenced by her time working under the Obama administration and abroad in the Middle East and Asia, Steph was inspired to address and bring attention to energy justice issues in the US. She founded Solstice which is a community solar focused-company working to bring clean energy to underserved communities.

Abby Hopper

As the CEO and President of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), Abby works to strengthen relations with SEIA’s 1000 member companies while also advocating for solar tax policy, clean energy workforce development, sustainable solar markets, education, and removing barriers to solar implementation. Twitter: @HopperAbby

Richard Chandler

Richard started his career working on energy initiatives in the White House and Congress before working at companies like Sempra and BP Solar. At those companies, he oversaw utility-scale solar and wind projects such as the noteworthy Long Island Solar Farm. Richard now works as the Managing Director of AEP Renewables, which plans to add over 5.9 GW of solar energy to its portfolio by 2030.

Jigar Shah

Jigar currently serves as the Director for the Loan Program Office at the US Department of Energy, where he directs the financial deployment of technologies to scale the global transition to a clean energy economy. He is a serial entrepreneur and founder, and started or co-started groups like SunEdison, Generate Capital, the Carbon War Room, and The Energy Gang podcast  all with the intention of finding new avenues to climate resiliency. Twitter: @JigarShahDC

Stephen Lacey

Stephen is considered a leading voice in the clean energy industry, and is widely recognized for his contributions to climate tech journalism and advocacy. He was Editor in Chief of Green Tech Media and the host of productions such as The Energy Gang and The Interchange. Twitter: @Stphn_Lacey

Lynn Jurich

Lynn is an investor as well as the Founder and CEO of Sunrun, which is a provider of residential solar panels and home batteries. Their trailblazing solar-as-a-service offering put them on the map, and earned Lynn amazing accolades such as Fortune’s “40 Under 40 Most Influential People in Business,” as well as one of Inc. Magazine’s “Top 100 Female Founders.” Twitter: @LynnJurich

Nico Johnson

Nico hosts one of the most popular podcasts on solar, SunCast. The weekly show has an impressive 300,000 downloads and features inspiring chats with solar warriors. From developing utility-scale solar in Latin America to an extensive sales and marketing experience in the industry, Nico is the go-to person for everything renewable. Twitter: @nicomeo

Adam Browning

In 2002, Adam founded and led VoteSolar to work towards bringing solar energy and policy change to the forefront of thought across America. Before his work in solar policy, Adam also worked at the Environmental Protection Agency on pollution prevention programs. Twitter: @adambrowning

Leonardo Moreno

As the head of AES Clean Energy, Leonardo brings his passion for the power industry and desire to actualize a future in which clean energy is cheap, accessible, and abundant. As president, he has led the implementation and development of wind, solar, and energy storage assets and a pipeline of about 23 GW of projects across the US. Twitter: @LE0NARD0M0REN0

Mark Donahue

Mark is Senior Vice President of the Solar Team at Mortenson and played a pivotal role in establishing the business’s renewable energies team. As of now, Mortenson has successfully executed 7 GW of solar projects and continues to be a heavy hitter in the industry.

Sara Ross

Sara’s passion for both climate resilience and climate education led her to co-found Sungage Financial, which disrupted traditional models of solar and empowered homeowners and business owners to take better control of their solar finances. She then co-founded Undaunted 12 to support American public schools in their transition to zero carbon emissions.

Jesse Jenkins, PhD

Dr. Jenkins is an assistant professor and energy systems engineer focusing on the impacts of zero carbon energy sources, economy wide decarbonization, and distributed energy resources. At Princeton University, he heads the Zero Carbon Energy Systems Research and Optimization Laboratory where he contributes to research on low carbon technology evaluations to help guide policy and planning on net zero emissions energy systems. Twitter: @JesseJenkins

Declan Flanagan

Declan has over 15 years of experience in wind and solar development, and he founded Lincoln Clean Energy before it was acquired by Ørsted in 2018. He now serves as  the Executive Vice President and CEO of Ørsted’s Onshore Business in the US. Ørsted was the first in the energy sector to operate solar, wind, and storage in the US at the utility scale and they are projected to develop over 1.3 GW of solar energy over 2021-2022 year.

Billy Parish

After first growing the Energy Action Coalition into one of the largest youth climate movements, Billy went on to co-found Mosaic with the intention of better empowering people to finance clean energy solutions. He has been recognized as a “climate hero” by Rolling Stone and named as one of “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World” by Utne Reader. Twitter: @billyparish

Erika Mackie

Erika serves as CEO and Co-Founder of GRID Alternatives, a major national non-profit focused on making renewable energy technology and job training accessible to underserved communities. She holds degrees in both physics and mechanical engineering, and her time preceding GRID Alternatives was focused on social work and energy efficiency consulting.

Tom Buttgenbach, PhD

Dr. Buttgenbach is the Co-Founder, CEO, and president of 8minute Solar Energy, a solar and storage developer in the US. Since his founding of the company, Dr. Buttgenbach grew 8minute Solar Energy from a boutique developer into a technologically-savvy company that has developed over 18 GW of solar and 24 GW of storage projects. He also serves on boards such as SEIA and the California League of Conservation Voters supporting community-based and political efforts to progress the clean energy agenda.

Dave Carroll

Dave serves as the Chief Renewables Officer of Engie North America and has over 15 years of experience leading teams in solar, wind, biomass, and storage projects at companies like Avangrid Renewables and EDF Renewable Energy. Over the course of his career, his efforts have culminated in the development of over 7GW of clean energy development worldwide.

Jenya Meydbray

Jenya has over a decade of experience researching PV modules, inverters, and battery system testing and diligence. As the CEO of PV Evolution Labs, Jenya brings much expertise on financial solar optimization and downstream testing. Twitter: @Jenya101

Michael Arndt

Michael has more than 18 years focused on growing pipelines of multi-gigawatt utility-scale projects in solar, wind, and energy storage projects. He has worked at energy companies like Navitas Energy, Invenergy, Element Power, NRG, and Recurrent Energy, where he currently serves as President and General Manager.

Kelly Pickerel

Kelly is the Editor in Chief of Solar World Magazine, which is one of the most widely read publications in the solar industry. Mostly, she focuses on topics such as solar panel manufacturing, energy storage, and solar power construction. She’s also responsible for writing the magazine’s annual list of top solar contractors and hosting The Contractor’s Corner podcast. Twitter: @SolarKellyP

Jim Robo

Jim gained years of leadership experience working in the finance, management consulting, and transportation sectors before finally transitioning into his role as Chairman and CEO at NextEra Energy. The company made Forbes’ “World’s Most Admired Companies” list and is ranked number one in the electric and gas utilities sector, leading the world in solar, wind, and battery storage energy.

If you want to learn more about the solar industry in the US, download our State of Green US Ebook 2021.

Heather Zichal

Heather heads the American Clean Power Association as CEO. By bringing together wind, solar, transmission and storage companies, along with manufacturers, construction companies, developers, owners/operators, utilities, financial firms and corporate purchasers, the association aims to champion policies that enable the continued growth in renewables across the US. Twitter: @hrzichal

Mark Jacobson, PhD

Dr. Jacobson is a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University. Much of his career has been dedicated to understanding climate resiliency and air pollution issues, and how we can implement clean energy solutions to mitigate the effects of climate change. Twitter: @mzjacobson 

Tor Valenza

Endearingly called “Solar Fred” by his following, Tor has over ten years of solar/storage/cleantech marketing, brand, and communications for tier one solar manufacturers, services, and startups. He is also the founder of UnThink Solar, a solar marketing agency. Twitter: @SolarFred

Lisa Friedman

As a reporter for the New York Times, Lisa reports on energy and climate trends. She has covered a wide variety of climate topics and also writes about developments in environmental policy, both from a domestic and global lens. Twitter: @LFFriedman

Tyler Norris

At Cypress Creek Renewables, Tyler oversees commercial strategy, policy engagement, offtake and site origination, and development operations across the region as the Senior Director of Development. Prior to joining Cypress Creek Renewables, he was appointed by the White House to serve as a Special Advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Energy and worked to advance President Obama's clean energy and climate agenda. Twitter: @tylerhnorris

Governor Kate Brown

Governor Brown is responsible for initiating and working on some of the most progressive energy policy and grid neutrality commitments in the country on behalf of the state of Oregon. Currently, her most recent piece of legislation is awaiting signing and would effectively make Oregon the state with the fastest carbon-free timeline in the US. Twitter: @OregonGovBrown

Theresa Perry

Theresa works for the Interstate Renewable Energy Council. IREC is a non-profit organization that builds the foundation for rapid adoption of clean energy and energy efficiency to benefit people, the economy, and our planet. Their work answers to the urgent need to transition to clean energy—to mitigate climate change and improve the resiliency of communities.

Mark Goodwin

In his role as President and CEO of Apex Clean Energy, Mark has overseen the implementation of more than 7 GW of wind and solar energy facilities representing $9 billion of investment. He is also a board member of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACPA). Currently, Apex Clean Energy has over 30 GW of solar and wind projects either being developed or fully operational across the US. Twitter: @MarkWGoodwin

Carl Siegrist

Carl is a renewable energy strategist and solar power advocate who is passionate about initiatives ranging from community solar, energy policy, to workforce development. He also served as a board member for the Smart Electric Power Alliance and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council. Twitter: @CarlSiegrist

Sheldon Kimber

Before co-founding and serving as CEO of Intersect Power, Sheldon was COO of leading utility developer Recurrent Energy where he helped grow the organization from a small rooftop solar developer to a large-scale utility platform. Since its founding in 2016, Intersect Power has delivered over 2GW of energy through 60+ solar projects across the US, and has an additional 1.7GW in the construction pipeline. Twitter: @SheldonKimber

Krystal Hansley

Krystal exudes passion for community initiatives and environmental justice given her community-oriented political roles prior to her founding of WeSolar. Her company focuses on bringing affordable clean energy to community solar operations and assisting commercial industries with energy efficiency strategies. She is also the first black female CEO in the US to head a community solar company. Twitter: @KHansley_

Daniel Shugar

Driven by his passion for renewable technologies and entrepreneurship, and over 20 years in the solar industry, Daniel successfully founded two solar companies, served on leadership for companies such as Sunpower and Solaria, and is currently the CEO and Founder of NEXTracker. He also invented new PV system applications, has multiple US patents, and has been published numerous times.

Cathy Wilhelm

With over 20 years of experience in real estate and environmental acumen, Cathy was able to co-found Strata Solar and Strata Construction where she serves as Chief Special Projects Officer. Now rebranded Strata Clean Energy, the company is a leading provider of utility scale solar energy and battery energy storage systems, with over 2.5 GW capacity of solar in development.

Ray Shem

Ray serves as Chief Financial Officer and Partner at Pine Gate Renewables, which is a leading provider of solar energy development, specializing in utility-scale solar projects. He believes Pine Gate Renewables’ successes stem from immersing themselves in multiple parts of the value chain and maintaining valuable mutually-beneficial external partnerships.

The preliminary progress being made on clean energy economies in the US is long overdue, given the nation’s problematic status as the second highest producer of carbon emissions in the world. The past few years have been a shifting point for the solar industry in the US, and our list is a testament to the brilliant work being done across all stakeholder groups ranging from industry giants, innovative startups, government organizations, media, and nonprofits. Each group has a part to play whether it's thinking up new innovation, developing and building plants, informing the public, or pushing forth equitable energy politics. And while there are a few names leading these movements who are bound to turn heads in the clean energy space, discussion and ideation permeate through the entire industry at every level edging us closer to a decarbonized future.

Curious to read more about the US solar market? To get more info about how renewable energy trends look like, what to expect in the future of US solar or PV US engineer trends, continue the learning here!

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Gabriel Cañadas

Business developer

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