November 1, 2016

Energy Career Trek 2016 student blog: Visiting Clean Energy Collective

Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

During Fall Break of the 2016-17 school year, the Nicholas School Energy Club sent fifteen graduate students from the Nicholas School of the Environment, Pratt School of Engineering and Fuqua School of Business to Denver, Colorado, as part of the club's annual Career Trek. Coordinated by Master of Environmental Management (MEM) students Leah Louis-Prescott and Eleanor Johnstone, the event was supported in part by the Duke University Energy Initiative.

Below is a student's account of one of the eight companies and agencies included on the trek. Read the others.

Clean Energy Collective

By Meghal Chaudhari
Master of Engineering Management Candidate

On Friday afternoon, we reached the Clean Energy Collective office. Just post-lunch, we were all rejuvenated and eager to meet Paul Spencer, the company's CEO. Spencer, who truly walks the walk by living off-grid in a self-sustaining home, has built ten companies in multiple sectors in the last 22 years. He began by explaining his idea for community solar, a model by which users pay for a share of a solar array, purchasing as much renewable energy as is appropriate for their needs. This reduces the stress and responsibility of installing and maintaining solar systems on home roofs.

Clean Energy Collective was founded in 2009, and has been recognized by the U.S Department of Energy as one of the top four organizations expanding the market for renewable electricity production. Based in Louisville, CO, Clean Energy Collective has over 100 community solar projects and over 26 utility partners across 12 states.

Clean Energy Collective, with its convenient software like 'RemoteMeter,' which calculates the production and monthly credits for participants, really encourages users to adopt renewable energy. Spencer explained that his model incentivizes customers to adopt community solar solutions to obtain both financial benefits as well as the environmental gains of renewable energy use. His presentation provided us with an innovator's perspective about idea generation and the process for expanding ideas into a business that currently has more than 3,000 end users.

This model for delivering a renewable product that first meets customer needs and interests resonated with me and my career aspiration of becoming a leader in the technical field. Having the opportunity to talk to the CEO of this successful company really helped me understand the link between technical expertise and sound business acumen. Spencer's knowledge about entrepreneurship, the solar community, and expanding a clientele was astounding, and it has clearly been a significant driver of his company's rapid growth rate. 

This trip strengthened my entrepreneurial spirit, and gave me a clearer understanding of where I could find my fit in an organization working on renewable energy. 

Read about the next stop on the Career Trek: Gravity Renewables. 

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