Recently, it was announced that Jeff Wolfe, co-founder and CEO of groSolar, was stepping down as the company’s CEO, but would remain an active member of groSolar’s board, as well as continue his work as Chair of the PV Division of SEIA. Today, June 1st, is his last day.
If you’ve never met Jeff, or at least heard of him…where have you been? Jeff is — and will remain — one of the leading voices in the solar industry, though he tells me he’s not exactly sure where he’ll continue to direct that baritone voice. First, he's taking a long and well-deserved vacation.
Jeff and his wife Dori began groSolar in 1998 as a residential solar installer in Vermont, and grew the company into a national brand. Today, groSolar doesn't do residential anymore, but distributes solar products, as well as acts as an EPC firm for large commercial and megawatt-sized projects.
In addition to growing a very small company into a very large one, Jeff has worked on SEIA’s board for a number of years, has testified at Senate hearings, and remains an active educator about global warming.
Of course, Jeff has many more professional and personal accomplishments, but the reason why I’m writing about him today is not to list his resume, but to honor a true solar advocate who, to me, is as an example of great solar CEO leadership.
Jeff started out as one of my cyber friends on social networks. Unlike many CEO’s, he handled his own account (mostly), Tweeting about groSolar events, but also about solar news and solar advocacy.
On blogs, editorials, interviews, and other social networks, I often saw him firmly and publicly defend the solar industry and climate science against global warming skeptics and solar skeptics. No matter what was said, Jeff always remained polite yet vigilant about his position.
Jeff and I finally met at SPI 2009 in Anaheim, where I interviewed him for Renewable Energy World. I have to say that I doubted that the interview would happen, since sitting him down for 30 minutes during SPI is like trying to catch lightening in your hands. Nevertheless, he kept his appointment and generously shared his insights on solar marketing and 2009 solar trends.
Since that first meeting, Jeff and I have had many discussions, on and offline, and what always impresses me is not just his breadth of knowledge and insights, but his presence and focus as a solar communicator. He never looked over my shoulder at who else was in the room or ducked a question, but we always had a direct and open conversation — whether I liked his answers or not.
And that to me is the best example of solar leadership. Regardless of his title or notoriety in the solar industry, Jeff Wolfe always made time to educate, advocate, and share his solar knowledge. He gave people his full attention whether in person, on a social network, on a groSolar webinar, or with a beer in his hand at a solar conference party.
There’s no doubt that solar is now a multibillion dollar global business, but we are far from mainstream. The solar industry today is still “a movement.” As a result, we still need solar CEOs to have a vision for solar and to take the time to get in front of the media and politicians and to correct distorted facts. We need them to write blogs, editorials, and yes, even 140 character Tweets.
In addition, today’s solar CEOs must not only have their solar facts ready, but they must also have a strong perspective about the industry and where it’s going…or going wrong. And not only must CEOs be able to explain that perspective, they must be able to defend it simply and eloquently. They must do all of this while still running their company, having a personal life…and sleeping; at least a few hours.
As groSolar’s CEO, Jeff Wolfe accomplished all of the above and more. And so it’s only appropriate that he takes a break and becomes less public and more private. Jeff swears to me that he’s not “retiring,” and I believe him. Whatever he decides to do after his vacation, I’m certain he’ll remain the same passionate solar advocate and voice for our industry and for groSolar.
Thanks, Jeff, for always inspiring me to listen, learn, and to “unthink” solar. Safe travels.
The information and views expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author and not necessarily those of RenewableEnergyWorld.com or the companies that advertise on this Web site and other publications. This blog was posted directly by the author and was not reviewed for accuracy, spelling or grammar.