How did you become interested in cleantech?
I graduated from college in 2001 with a desire to work in solar. I studied Applied Physics and was even part of a team that built a solar-powered car that we raced from D.C. to Orlando. That was a great engineering project, but not a practical transportation solution.
The car was very aerodynamic — shaped sort of like a cockroach — and built with very light weight but strong materials. It could fit one person, the driver, sandwiched into an uncomfortable position wearing a racing helmet. In full sun, it could go about 40 mph without using the batteries, and could go a bit faster using the batteries. It worked, but it was just a demonstration project. For my career, I wanted to do something more practical.
Can you describe your journey from solar car racer to CEO of Bright Power?
After graduating, I met with some folks in New York and D.C. to explore becoming a solar installer, and in the course of those conversations, I met a guy who was consulting for investors on renewable technologies. Then, in 2003, I worked with him on a study about the cost and financial benefits of green buildings. That was the first time that anybody had tried to quantify the full financial benefits, beyond just energy or water savings.
So we looked at productivity improvements of having people in a well-lit space that was comfortable. The numbers were a little squishy, but they were not zero. The results showed that the energy and water savings covered the additional 3-4% cost, but the other benefits–employees staying longer, being more productive, and feeling more engaged–were about 10x the amount of the energy and water savings. It was interesting research, but I am a hands-on person. I wanted to actually make it happen. I was 25 years old and I had a choice between going to grad school, finding a job, or starting a company. So I started Bright Power in 2004, to make widespread deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy a reality.
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