And the Winners Are (So Far): Solar Heroes – Part II

Last week, I asked readers to send me your solar heroes. And you did. Thanks!

It’s important to recognize teachers who have given us training and advice in this industry, as well as the industry leaders and early adopters who went solar because they believed it was the best thing to do for the world, not just for a return on investment.

I know this is only the beginning and there are many people to be added here. This list can still grow in the comments section below, but for now, I want to recognize and applaud the solar heroes nominated so far—as well as the people who genuinely nominated them. Here’s the list in the order that they were nominated with excerpts of their nominators’ comments. ::continue::




The Solar Hero

A Solar Hero Because…

Stephen Lacey

Elsie, Stephen’s landlady.

Elsie “installed a 5-kilowatt system on her house ten years ago. At the time, it was one of the biggest in the state of NH! She is an avid supporter of renewables and puts her money where her mouth is.”


Stephen Lacey

Adam Browning, Vote Solar.

Sue Kateley, CALSEIA

Jigar Shah, SunEdison

Lyndon Rive, SolarCity

Danny Kennedy, Sungevity

Deep Patel, GoGreenSolar

Stephen said. “My other solar heroes are the advocates and entrepreneurs who are working tirelessly to improve technologies, create new business models, promote solar policies and push the limits of what we think is possible.”

Tor Valenza aka “Solar Fred”

Andy Black, solar educator and creator of OnGrid Solar Financial Analysis Tool.   

For teaching around the country about solar economics for home owners. Andy inspires many solar advocates to get involved with the business—including me. He’s also very active with ASES and other solar organizations, and provides free information about solar careers on his website,


New Energy

Arthur Shanks, Cypress Mandela Training

KACO said, “Arthur and his colleagues from Oakland, CA offer a free solar training program to support people who went through hard times in their lives. They are determined to help struggling individuals to develop new perspectives on life, education, job opportunities and renewable energy. If you’d like to learn more, please come and visit my blog.

Tor Valenza aka “Solar Fred”

Dave Cook, Wisconsin Home Owner

Dave had just bought a 7.5kW system and commented on my solar referral site, wondering if there were any more rebates than the 30% ITC. (His co-op didn’t give any rebates.)

When I told him the bad news, Dave wrote back to me and said:

“For me putting in solar is a political/social decision even more than a monetary decision. I knew that we are not yet at a point where rebates are abundant, but I am hopeful they will [become more abundant] as we need more clean energy. Even if I don’t fully recoup my expenses, my children and grandchildren will.”

Rich Schwerin

Erica Mackie and Tim Sears, co-founders

Rich said, “Truly inspiring, dynamic leaders who, in just 8 years, have built an impressive army of volunteers to help bring solar electricity and energy efficiency to low income residences.” Rich met Tim at his volunteer training program in mid-July.

Leona Simon

Wes Golomb, Energy Services and Technology Program, Lakes Region Community College, New Hampshire

Leona said, “When it began it was one of only 3 such programs in the country. I am one of his students and cannot say enough about the value of the information offered in this course in all aspects of energy including solar; passive, active (PV) and thermal. applications.

Leona Simon

Michael Greene, Architectural Designer, Deerfield, NH.

Leona said that Michael “has been designing passive solar homes in NH for many years. His work is unique, beautiful and energy efficient using passive solar.”


Steve Walgren, CEO, Pacific Sun Technologies

TC said, “Steve is incredibly knowledgeable, respectful of all people, and extraordinarily truthful. I have 30+ years business experience, and it is a joy to work with this man. There are no hidden agendas, half-truths, or other games. He is who he is and he respects who you are regardless of whether or not you can do anything for him or to him. It is this kind of leadership and example as a genuinely good human being that has us in a position of a great book of business even in these difficult economic times.”

Kim Gerly


Tom Chatagnier, Diablo Valley College, Pleasanton, CA

Kim said, “Tom’s not only a vanguard and sage in development of PV design curriculum, but he’s been a vital instrument in promulgating policy; i.e., catalyzing a proxy process where one could obtain NABCEP certification. Not to mention, his classes were a pleasure and a lot of fun! His passion for the subject is reflected in the energy he has put into the coursework and in his instruction.”

Kim added that Tom never allowed his students to be a “wall flower.”

Mary Saunders

Kathy Bash, DMS Architects and Solar Oregon

Mary said that Kathy’s presentations are engaging. Kathy also uses her own house as a beta site for installing solar in historical neighborhoods. “She has worked and presented with the enthusiasm of someone really taken with the technology and the potentials, in Oregon, no less! If we can do it here, where our sports teams are ducks and beavers, think of what can be done where the sun shines more.”




Frank Naylor, Solar Power Company, Salt Lake City

“For his 26 years service in the business of designing and installation of solar systems.”


Ann Bliss, Paul Bliss, and

Kevin Beane, Energy Raisers

Thxsparrow commented that these solar heroes have brought people together in a grass roots way to help each other get very affordable solar PV and Solar Hot Water. “The idea is that professionals in SEAREI (Seacoast Area Renewable Energy Initiative) assist the homeowner and volunteers in hosting their own solar [barn] raising. Volunteers work on three or four projects to get training and understanding of how to install a system, then request a slot to have their system installed. It is a “pay it forward” concept that allows volunteers to learn beside professionals and then to pass that knowledge and experience on through involvement.”

Ken Oatman

Dr. Rande Treece, CEO, Astralux Power Systems

Ken writes “Rande is a successful solar researcher (with the solar patents and research grants to prove it) who has entrepreneurially launched a spin-off company into a top Colorado integrator, with a 10% market share. He maintains the same high quality integrity with PV installations as he does while doing research on behalf of NASA, the National Science Foundation, the Navy, CU and others.”

Michael Noble

Daryl Thayer

Michael writes that he got a job out of college as an energy auditor for the local low income weatherization program. He said, “I didn’t keep track of Daryl year to year but I know he trained, inspired, or coached most every solar tech in Minnesota over 30 years. This past year I ran into him at a tour of the local IBEW solar training center along with a passel of politicians and business leaders and green jobs advocates as part of the Minnesota Green Jobs Task Force. There he was- lead instructor, Daryl Thayer.”

Liz Merry


Erica Mackie and Tim Sears, co-founders; second nomination




While Liz seconded the previous nomination for these two, she added, “There are so many seasoned solar leaders that kept the U.S. industry alive through the 1990’s. In California the board of CalSEIA is usually full of dedicated leaders who act for the general good, and many of them were there in the 1980’s, fighting the good fight.”

Brenda Ropoulos

Cathy Boone, Global Marketing and Government Relations, Applied Materials Solar Business Group

Brenda writes, “Cathy has driven development of strategic solar business unit communications to customers, technology leaders, public policy makers worldwide, the investment community and the public. She has established awareness of Applied’s solar solutions to enable enormous reductions in the cost/watt of solar electricity production and, ultimately, price parity with grid electricity.”


Thanks again to everyone above for their efforts and taking the time to recognize these great solar people.

I’m going to get back into more solar marketing related blogs now, but please feel free to add more in the comments section below. Also, if you know someone who got you into the solar business or encourages others in some solar way, give them a shout today. Tell them you just want to thank them. You’d be amazed how much that can mean to people.

And if you can’t thank those people anymore for some reason, then like the Energy Raisers above, please pay it forward. Tell people about solar. Help them to understand it, and if you can, teach them to pay it forward too.

Thanks. Unthink Solar.

Tor Valenza aka “Solar Fred”  advises solar companies on marketing and public relations and is a partner at solar referral service, You can contact him through and follow him on Twitter @SolarFred.


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Tor Valenza aka "Solar Fred" is the Chief Marketing Officer of Solar at Impress Labs, a PR, marketing and communications firm dedicated to helping solar companies reach solar customers through innovative messaging, branding, PR, and social media communications. Follow him on Twitter @SolarFred.

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