In 1979 at the ripe young age of 30 I built a new home in Northwest Portland. I installed a solar water heating system in May 1980. Proudly standing next to my solar collectors, on May 18th I watched Mt. St. Helens erupt. I was a real estate broker, having just started my own company selling a condominium project misfortunately called “Ash Creek Park”. As the region was covered in ash, and with interest rates climbing to 19% nothing was selling and I had a big mortgage to pay. I called the solar company who’d installed my system and asked them if they could use a part time salesman. I told them I could sell anything I believed in.
My first introduction to solar was either helping a friend design a solar cooker in an engineering class or using my hand lens magnifier between the sun and a small pile of dry leaves to start a campfire at geology field camp in Eastern Oregon. Either way, both seemed like rather economical methods to harness a readily available source of renewable energy. After earning my geology degree it was a natural fit to end up in the energy industry. I started working with utilities and developers to site and permit large gas pipelines and offshore terminals.
My path to the solar industry was kind of a long courtship: Unsure of what I wanted to do, I kept looking into solar every few years until I eventually decided to take the plunge and go for a solar career.
I have a book on my office bookshelf called the “Alternative Energy Sourcebook 1991.” It’s a catalog of sorts from the Real Goods Trading Corporation that offers solar modules and any number of micro-hydro and other renewable systems. So I’ve had a long-standing interest in solar and renewable energy.
I keep it around to remind myself how far we’ve come in terms of the technology and the capacity to serve as a real energy resource. I didn’t get a chance to actually work on renewable energy until I came back to Oregon in 1998 to work for the Citizens’ Utility Board of Oregon (CUB). CUB represents residential ratepayers and while most consumer advocates are just focused on energy as a pocketbook issue, CUB also looks at energy from the perspective of Oregonians’ values. Oregonians care where their energy comes from, they want to invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy, they want clean up our energy grid.Read more
My solar story started at Southern Oregon University (SOU) in
2010. I went back to school because I had recently become a father and wanted
to set a good example for my son. I was a business major but began taking environmental
studies classes. The classes focused on environmental problems, which are daunting,
but I wanted to come up solutions. I decided to minor in environmental studies,
focusing when possible on courses in corporate sustainability. The Summer of 2011, I had the opportunity to study renewable energy in Germany. Although the course was less than a month long, the impacts had a lasting effect on my education and engagement on campus.
I started my solar career in 2004 at Mr. Sun Solar. I had been interested in solar for a long time and was intrigued by the energy independence it had to offer.
I was working random jobs while pursuing the inside electrical apprenticeship program. On the way to my job at the time, as a mover, I drove by Mr. Sun’s office every day. One day without thinking about it I turned my head in the direction of the Mr Sun office and not even sure what Mr. Sun meant, I decided to stop the van and go inside.
I ended up starting my first day of work with Mr. Sun about two weeks later. I showed up for my first day at what was known as the “old shop”, I think it’s now the old old old shop. I was excited to work my first day in solar! I spent the next six months of my solar career replacing a sidewalk, remodeling a bathroom at an apartment connected to the shop and fixing up John’s (Mr. Sun’s owner) house.Read more
Major energy crises seem to follow me wherever I go. When I was one and a half years old we lived just 30 miles from the Three Mile Island nuclear plant when it began to melt down. My mom still says my first full sentence was “no more nukes!” Although I was a tad young at the time to fully absorb all of the policy implications of the Three Mile Island disaster, it must have somehow been the beginning of my solar story.Read more
Ever heard of Wiwa v. Royal Dutch Shell Co.? My solar story started as a University of Pennsylvania college student in 2002, working as an intern for Judith Chomsky out of her home in Philadelphia. Judith, flanked by her two huge, slobbery Mastiffs, was representing Ken Saro-Wiwa’s family in a lawsuit regarding human rights violations and oil spills in Nigeria. My job was to look through reams of discovery for evidence of malfeasance. That experience spurred my interest in clean energy. It also led to a complete lack of interest in attending law school despite my father’s best efforts at convincing me otherwise. My first job after college was with New Jersey Public Interest Group in a two-year fellowship program for recent graduates. The pay was terrible, but it was great for my career...
Join OSEIA in congratulating Betsy as a recipient of the Daily Journal of Commerce's 2016 Women of Vision award. Congratulations Betsy and thank you for your leadership of positive change!
My solar story starts about 25 years ago with a documentary I saw on salmon runs and tribal fishing rights. There was a moment in the film when someone said that tribal overfishing was causing the drop in salmon numbers. Then they cut to someone else saying that there were many factors contributing to the salmon issues, most notably the presence of some rather large dams, and that tribal fishing was probably not high on the problem list.
I had just moved to Portland from the Midwest and had previously never given much thought to how electricity is made and what impact it has on us. It was also a revelation to me, coming from Wisconsin, that rivers could actually be clean...Read more
Bright Beginnings (part 1 of 3) - Like many of us employed in the solar industry in Oregon my first job in solar began with John Patterson in 2007. I had spent the previous year obsessed with solar technology and as a hobby read about it every night. I remember showing up at Milwaukie High School for “Career Day” in 2006, with solar garden lights, claiming to be a solar specialist. The previous year, 2005, I presented as a video editor; but since that is not what I wanted to do with my life I chose to make something up: “fake it till you make it.” is a real thing.
By 2007 I was convinced, whether it made financial sense or not, that I would install solar on my house. I invited Mr. Sun Solar himself to come to my house and I immediately drank the koolaid. “I can heat my water with a system developed and manufactured right here in Oregon?” SOLD!!! But first.... I convinced John to pay me $200 to help install the system and thus I spent two days cleaning the ends of copper pipes and hauling equipment all over the place, my first job in solar. Brion Wickstrom was there, he showed up with long hair and a fully dialed, custom made truck- it was tremendous.Read more
My solar story starts in the “dial-up” days of the internet when I stumbled upon something called Earthships. Intrigued by the idea of a completely self-contained home built from waste tires, I took off for Taos New Mexico to check them out...I have come to realize how important our tax credits and incentives are to my business and the Oregon solar industry.
So along with my membership in OSEIA, I have decided to put my money where my future lies and support the Oregon SolarPAC with a monthly contribution.
When I was in architecture school, my main interests were sustainability and green building at the residential scale. After college, realizing that I did not really know how buildings were put together, I joined an AmeriCorps crew constructing homes with Habitat for Humanity which involved a move from Minnesota to Oregon. After learning how to build new homes, I became interested in how to make existing homes more energy efficient. So I attended a volunteer orientation at the Community Energy Project and within the next week or so, I was offered a position there. I initially taught the lead poisoning prevention workshops and then later transitioned to the in-homes crew where we installed safety items and basic weatherization kits. After that I worked for a few different contractors teaching homeowners about more advanced energy efficiency measures that would help improve their homes. Working in renewable energy was the next logical step and I really wanted to work in the field again so I decided to become a solar installer.
Support the Oregon SolarPAC!!!
OSEIA has started a political action committee to increase our voice and influence with our decision makers in Salem. Your donation to the Oregon SolarPAC helps expand OSEIA’s capacity to develop a marketplace for the widespread adoption of solar energy in Oregon. More information>