March 25th, 2011

Reflections on Then and Now: Growing up in the Growing Solar Industry from East to West Coast

Solar -

I got my humble start in solar in the Northeast as a student in the early 2000’s interested in sustainability and self-sufficient living. My original goal was to learn about these topics enough so I could go back to the land, too, and continue my work as a renewable energy and sustainability advocate.

Instead, my fortune changed in a very unexpected way.

In the Beginning

I was a product of the tie-dye t-shirt and sandals days of solar; when what mattered was that you were a True Believer In The Cause. I spent a lot of time reading Home Power Magazine, volunteering at sustainability-related events, and bending the ears of the old guard environmentalists who were among the minuscule percentage of people to live off the grid with solar. In the late 1990’s in the Northeast: this was about as close as you could get to solar without going back to the land yourself.

Then, in early 2006, I saw an ad in the classifieds of a local newspaper from a solar installer looking for a part-time plumber. I would end up cold calling and pitching myself to this small startup. From a small basement-office mom-and-pop operation up through the rough and tumble growth into a regional installation company, I began to actualize a career in solar energy not as an advocate as I had originally expected, but as a young person with a tangible green job helping to put solar panels on roofs every day.

Today’s Solar Industry

Now, having recently relocated to what many consider  “solar central” in the SF Bay Area, I have turned my sights to engaging the forefront of developments in the solar industry from software support products, financial products, monitoring solutions, to new marketing techniques. The growth of the solar industry has exploded in the last several years even if it is still a comparably small industry in comparison to many others.

The SF Bay Area, and especially Silicon Valley, is rife with cleantech-related incubators, start-ups, and investment groups searching for the next big market breakthroughs. The events of many general cleantech or technology-specific societies, meetups, and networking groups could fill your schedule almost every night of the week. For the motivated, there are no shortage of places to get involved.

Now, solar especially is graduating into the Big Time. Those who are involved are not required to be “True Believers” in order to be involved. The conditions are in place, the time is now, and many young people are enthusiastically searching for ways to make a positive impact in careers that they find personally and professionally satisfying. It’s a great time to be a renewable energy professional.

As the new San Francisco Green Light Distrikt Insider, I look forward to sharing the insights and perspectives from around our region as well as in-depth coverage of cleantech and entrepreneurship-related events and summits.

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Pam Cargill

About Pam Cargill

Located in the SF Bay Area, Pamela Cargill is the principal "chaolyst" at Chaolysti and provides marketing and operations support to small and growing renewable energy companies and green brands. She writes about issues facing the solar industry, marketing best-practices, and shines a light on renewable energy at work in her travels. Her background is in solar energy system design and new media marketing. Since 2006, she has been helping small solar companies grow into successful operations. Since relocating to the SF Bay Area from the NorthEast, she has quickly become plugged in to the pulse of the renewable energy entrepreneurial community. In her free time, she enjoys her sailboat-live-aboard & car-free lifestyle, year-round farmers markets, the urban vintners movement, and working in her Square-Foot Garden. Follow her on twitter: @chaolyst