The solar industry is beginning to take steps to diversify and create new leadership and professional development pathways for women. At Sol Systems, we just completed our first project led by an all-woman development team. It also Nebraska’s largest solar project and Nebraska Public Power District’s (NPPD) first battery storage project.
The project is an 8.5MW community solar project with 1MW battery storage in the City of Norfolk and was developed by a partnership that includes Sol Systems, GenPro, and Menser Development. Anna Noucas, Director of Origination, led the competitive RFP process submission and contract negotiations after the project was awarded. Anna’s initial Norfolk team consisted of Jill Rathke – Business Development Associate, Lauren Aycock – Project Engineer, and Erin Hickok – Senior Investment Analyst.
As the project moved into the development phase, Bridget Callahan, Project Development Manager, led the coordination of site studies and the project’s interconnection process with NPPD to ensure a smooth financing and construction process. From there, Meg Pieper, the Pre-Construction Manager, helped set construction timelines and worked to ensure project goals and needs were communicated and agreed-on by the project partners to lead the way to commercial operation, anticipated to be achieved in the spring of 2022.
Not only is this project going to be NPPD’s first solar-plus-storage project, but it is also paired with positive community and environmental impact. The project is part of NPPD’s SunWise program, a community solar initiative where customers who sign up to obtain a share will receive an electricity bill credit. The credit allows customers to benefit from solar without the upfront cost of building a solar system on their property.
In addition, the project incorporates an on-site pollinator habitat to support the local ecosystem and local pollinator populations, like bees. The inclusion and design of the pollinator habitat was completed by performance engineer Juliana Isaac. Once the project is operational, students in the Electrical Construction and Control Program at Northeast Community College, Norfolk’s local community college, will work alongside project operators and partners to gain onsite and practical solar experience. As a part of the project, the collective will provide three scholarships to students participating in the internship program, an initiative organized by Sol’s Marketing Coordinator, Claire Siwulec.
The women that designed, developed, and built the Norfolk project took charge during the COVID-19 pandemic and created a highly efficient, effective, and flexible team. The Norfolk project leaders exemplify the added value of female leadership within the industry. With women comprising only 30% of the solar workforce, there is still so much work to be done, but we hope the story of Norfolk can inspire companies to act to further the progress being created today.