The unique and dedicated team of people who work at Sol Systems have been a key part of our success over the past eight years. With a growing staff of nearly sixty full-time employees, in offices at Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and San Francisco, the driven, talented group of industry professionals have created resourceful financing mechanisms for the solar industry and thousands of individual projects. Every month, we give you an inside look at some of the incredible work our team members have been doing. This time, we are featuring Rebecca Tilbrook of the Technical Advisory team, to hear about her experiences and opportunities at Sol Systems.
1. Why did you choose to pursue a career centered around solar energy?
I have always been interested in the environment. Specifically for solar, I think I am relatively pragmatic and practical, and to me solar PV (photovoltaics) is the simplest way to produce electricity. With coal or oil, the process started millions of years ago when animals and plants would die and after centuries of high pressure and heat, they became the fossil fuels that we are now extracting for energy – a very long process. With solar energy, it is just the electrons and the photons at work. The sun provides energy straight to the panels that directly convert it into electricity. I think the simplicity of that process always interested me.
2. What aspects of Sol Systems made you want to join the team here?
The fact that Sol Systems is purely a solar company made it stand out for me. Working at other utility and renewable energy companies, it was difficult having to fight internally for the spotlight since solar was not the only focus of those companies. However, at Sol Systems, everyone is focused specifically on solar energy which unifies our vision and goals.
On top of that, I hadn’t heard about Sol Systems before I had seen the online job posting, but many of my colleagues and industry contacts both knew about Sol Systems’ reputation and have glowing reviews for the work they were doing. It gave me a great impression of the company and I became very engaged in the work they were doing.
3. Since joining Sol Systems, what has been your favorite part about working here?
I have only been here for a little over a year now, and I think that my favorite parts about Sol Systems have changed over this past year many times. I am always grateful to work with such an energetic and passionate team – they are also a group of people who always respects each other.
4. As with any technology, there are technical risks to investment associated with solar, what are some of the ways you can mitigate these risks?
Our responsibilities are to identify and quantify potential technical risks to projects that might exist and then, based on what we find, decide how best to mitigate them. The risk key areas we focus on are technology, design, energy production, counterparty, and execution. For the most part we evaluate risks by a variety of standards that are all widely adopted by most financial and risk rating companies. We usually work with Tier 1 manufacturers who provide robust warranties and guarantees.
The team is also increasingly focused on energy modeling and observing the risks around production. We predict the future energy production based on system type and location in order to give detailed projections of returns on the investment of the project. Overall, we end up working with a wide range of contractors, developers, and investors as we work to shape projects to fit investor preferences so that each project we bring will perform like other projects in their portfolio and meet their standards for quality, reliability, and investment returns.
5. What role do maintenance and upkeep of solar energy systems play into managing solar investments?
Solar doesn’t have many maintenance requirements after the initial installation compared to other generation types and it ends up being very low cost over the lifetime of the system.
6. How do investment risks associated with solar compare to those of other energy sources and technologies?
Compared to something like gas, the biggest difference is the fuel source. Once you have begun extracting fuel – like gas – for energy, you are pretty certain of what the short term prices may be, yet it can be difficult to project the prices and costs years out. The biggest difference is that solar doesn’t need the same type of fuel and instead uses the light from the sun. As a result, while you may not be able to forecast exactly when a cloud will block out the sunlight hour to hour, the year to year production and costs are fairly predictable for solar energy. When stacked against other renewables, solar tends to be more predictable than wind and doesn’t require as much maintenance as marine, hydro, wind, or geothermal systems. In the end, since solar energy doesn’t include any moving parts, won’t pollute while producing energy, and has long-term predictability it compares pretty well to other utilities.
7. Do you think that even in the face of these risks, solar is still a wise investment?
I definitely think investing in solar is worthwhile. In a more ethereal or visceral way, for thousands of years people have been worshipping the sun and it has always been seen as life giving because it provides us with considerable amounts of energy. Only in this last century have we found a way to efficiently capture that energy to create electricity. But in terms of why other people should care about investing in solar – I think that we have clearly come across a technology that not only creates energy without any pollution, but also does so silently, without any moving or kinetic parts, is made of one of the most abundant materials on Earth, requires little maintenance, lasts for nearly half a lifetime, and can be installed on nearly every exposed surface – investing in solar energy is a very logical and wise choice.
8. Outside of Sol Systems, what do you do with your free time?
Outside of work, I enjoy playing and writing my own music.
Want to be a part of the Sol Systems team too? We are currently hiring new employees at all three of our offices, in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and San Francisco. To learn more about available solar energy careers with Sol Systems, please visit our careers page.
ABOUT SOL SYSTEMS
Sol Systems is a leading solar energy investment and development firm with an established reputation for integrity and reliability. The company has financed approximately 450MW of solar projects, and manages over $500 million in assets on behalf of insurance companies, utilities, banks, and Fortune 500 companies.
Sol Systems works with its corporate and institutional clients to develop customized energy procurement solutions, and to architect and deploy structured investments in the solar asset class with a dedicated team of investment professionals, lawyers, accountants, engineers, and project finance analysts.