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$75k donation supports women in clean energy

The Woodward Charitable Trust awarded the Colorado Clean Energy Cluster (doing business as She’s in Power) a $75,000 grant — $25,000 over three years — to advance the She’s in Power program and establish a Gender Commission and Voluntary Workforce Standard.

A significant focus internally at Woodward is diversity — gender, ethnic, thought, perspective and background. We’re deeply committed to supporting our local community. As a company that centers on improved efficiency and reduced emissions, ensuring the future of clean energy is of vital importance to us,” explained Chris Fawzy, General Counsel of Woodward and President of the Charitable Trust.

 

“CCEC’s objectives are very much in line with our values, and we’re excited to support its programs.”

Beyond the Charitable Trust’s funding, Woodward leadership has committed to supporting She’s in Power clean energy projects with its time and talent. The company is already working with the CSU Energy Institute on a hydrogen Power Project and plans to provide Energizers (mentors) for future projects. It’s a win-win-win for our Sparks, our community and the industry as a whole.

The Gender Commission and Voluntary Workforce Standard is a new program of the Colorado Clean Energy Cluster (CCEC) made possible by the new grant, in addition to support from the Mighty Arrow Foundation, CSU Energy Institute and City of Fort Collins. The Gender Commission will be convened from clean energy employers with successful gender equity efforts underway. In partnership with CCEC, the commission will develop a voluntary verified clean energy workforce standard and associated toolkit — actionable steps businesses can take to improve equity, from recruitment to training, mentorship to leadership.

“It’s so important to focus on diversity,” added Fawzy. “Without initiatives like the Gender Commission, there can be a tendency to end up in a place where diversity is lacking, not just in our industries but also in our communities.”

While convened out of Colorado, the Voluntary Workforce Standard will have national appeal, covering the full ecosystem of clean energy employers: start-ups, corporations, utilities, research institutions and beyond. To support this national reach, CCEC has two board members who are C3E national ambassadors, a high-profile network of senior women leaders in clean energy.

Together, with the support of forward-thinking organizations like the Woodward Charitable Trust and the engagement of leaders across the country, we will develop the diverse clean energy workforce of tomorrow.

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Shining a light on solar power in Fort Collins

In the summer of 2020, Colorado State University electrical engineering student Giuliana Seretti was supplementing her learning with an internship at the Platte River Power Authority (PRPA). Her growing interest in solar energy, both in and out of the classroom, led her to John Bleem, a research associate at the CSU Energy Institute and former PRPA employee who was working on a She’s in Power initiative.

The goal: Estimating the total amount of solar power energy being produced in Fort Collins. With more than 1,700 photovoltaic systems producing data simultaneously throughout the city, this is no small task.

Seretti had to get up to speed quickly on the years-long project and solar energy jargon. “It was a big learning curve for me at the beginning,” she allowed. But before long, she had developed her own machine-learning model that predicts solar output based on temperature, global horizontal irradiance and other parameters. She also examined all models, existing and proposed, for data accuracy — work that continues to this day.

“Basically, I’m trying to demonstrate the benefits of certain models and how they should be applied to measuring solar output in Fort Collins,” Seretti explained.

Her mentor Bleem has been impressed with the results and Seretti’s perseverance: “The She’s in Power project allows Giuliana to learn about solar energy modeling (not part of the curriculum) and provides a real-world application for machine learning. She is gaining both ‘hard’ (technical) and ‘soft’ (collaboration) experience.”

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Adding brilliance to the She’s in Power board

She’s in Power draws on the immense experience of our board to shape the organization and drive our programming. We were thrilled when Ellen Morris and Tami Bond joined our brain trust in December 2020 and September 2021, respectively.

Ellen Morris CCEC Board

Ellen Morris

Dr. Ellen Morris is the Director of University Partnerships at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and holds a joint appointment at the Colorado School of Mines in the Engineering, Design and Society program. A world-renowned expert on energy and international development, Morris’s work focuses on policy analysis, research, strategy development, and writing on energy access, gender equality and business models.

Morris has been addressing equity and inclusion in the clean energy workforce her whole career: “By working with rising stars and seasoned veterans interested in changing the world, I believe we can realize a clean energy future for Colorado and beyond.”

Tami Bond

Dr. Tami Bond is the Walter Scott, Jr. Presidential Chair in Energy, Environment and Health and a mechanical engineering professor at Colorado State University. Through her work, Bond aims to understand the human activity that leads to environmental impact. Her research explores the intimate relationship between technology choice, human need and infrastructure.

Bond is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, a 2014 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellow, and was recently named to the U.S. EPA Science Advisory Board with a dual role on the board’s Climate Science Committee.

Meet the She’s in Power Board

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Welcome She’s in Power’s new Program Assistant!

The She’s in Power team is proud to announce their newest team member, Alyssa Uhl.

Alyssa started as a Spark in Spring 2021 working on a solar energy education project. She blew us out of the water with her tenacity and passion for this work. With additional funding provided by partners we were able to hire her on part time to build the momentum around She’s in Power. Alyssa is finishing up a BS in environmental public health at CSU, while also minoring in global environmental sustainability and Spanish Language. She is interested in the connection between sustainability and public health through the lens of community education. Alyssa will be helping assist She’s in Power projects, planning events, and ramping up our social media.

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SiP Power Tool Series

Leaders within the clean energy arena speak during monthly She’s in Power meetings to offer insights on their career paths and the hard and soft skills needed to excel in the industry.

Speakers include:

  • CSU research scientist Dr. Evan Sproul
  • City of Wheat Ridge Sustainability Coordinator Kayla Betzold
  • ElektrikGreen Co-Founder Jane Allo
  • Namaste Solar Commercial Project Manager Sara Demetroff
  • APEX Analytics Senior Associate Katie Parkinson
  • The Cadmus Group Senior Associate Allie Marshall

These meetings have covered topics such as sustainable city planning, solar installation, executing sustainability initiatives in the community, chemical differences between various greenhouse gases, and efficient project management. Overall, Sparks are able to network with guest speakers in a close virtual setting while simultaneously increasing their understanding of the diversity within the clean energy workforce.

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Meet our new Power Player, Diane Ernst

Diane Ernst first heard about She’s in Power and the program manager position through the Sustainable Living Association. After reading the job description, she was all in.

“I’m super passionate about empowering the next generation,” enthused Ernst. “I thought the position would give me the ability to do that while tangibly helping tackle the real issue of women in clean energy. I wanted to be part of it.”

Ernst is no stranger to catalyzing young people. As a City of Fort Collins Public Engagement Specialist, she saw a gap in programming for local teenagers. So she created and still runs a free program where teens and mentors work together on environmental stewardship, leadership and climate action. She considers it the best part of her job.

“It’s what I love most: empowering those teenagers,” said Ernst. “She’s in Power gives me the opportunity to do more of what I love. It’s also about filling a gap in programming, reaching out to and providing opportunities for a certain subset of the community that may not feel they belong in the space of sustainability or clean energy.”

Ernst brings more than 10 years of experience in public engagement and environmental education to She’s in Power. She credits her success to seeking out strong female mentors who have coached and inspired her, along with actively pursuing professional development opportunities like the sustainability training that led her to She’s in Power.

The future of the She’s in Power program looks bright with Ernst at the helm. She and the rest of the She’s in Power team have a clear vision for the program in the months and years ahead. The first big focus will be making the program more inclusive, equitable and accessible — not just reaching young women and girls, but also young women and girls of color. Next, the team will work to retain She’s in Power alumni, creating a pipeline for the program.

“Maybe that means a Spark becomes an Energizer or an Energizer becomes a Power Partner, or a Power Partner donates money to continue the program,” explained Ernst. A great way to start building that pipeline, she said, is sharing personal stories about how the program has impacted people. “What if somebody does a Power Project and then two years later, gets a job in the clean energy field? Let’s tell that story! That’s so exciting and allows more people to see women in clean energy, to spark that inspiration to do this work.”

The She’s in Power Team is also working on scalability. Ernst is a big believer in collective impact and plans to package She’s in Power in such a way that other communities can take it on — both in and outside of northern Colorado. “There’s so much power and greatness in this program. I’m excited to open doors, hear from people and really get things going.”

Read our full conversation with program manager Diane Ernst.

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One mighty endowment

Colorado C3E was selected by the Mighty Arrow Family Foundation to receive a general operating grant in the spring of 2020. Foundation grants are awarded by invitation only, so it’s an honor that the Foundation took note of our work and a privilege that we were selected to receive funding.

“We saw value in the mentor-mentee program She’s In Power was implementing,” explained Jordana Barrack, executive director of the Foundation. “The ability to help younger women find positive role models in the clean energy sector truly is powerful. We are excited to help others find inspiration in the work that will define our futures.”

The grant awarded to Colorado C3E is a 3-year funding commitment dedicated to helping the She’s in Power program launch and expand its reach. The objectives of She’s in Power align well with the Foundation’s interests in supporting innovative climate action solutions, helping communities become more climate change resilient and transitioning to a clean energy economy. The size of Colorado C3E is also a good fit for the Foundation’s mission-aligned philanthropy.

“When we find small organizations that are doing important work in our community and can build a relationship with them, we can really help move the needle,” said Barrack.

Colorado C3E is putting the Mighty Arrow Family Foundation grant to immediate use by hiring a dedicated She’s in Power program manager. We are thrilled to welcome Diane Ernst to the team and broaden the impact of She’s in Power.

Find out more about the Mighty Arrow Family Foundation and its vital work for our community at MightyArrow.org.

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One small action to benefit everyone

The nonprofit onexeveryone fosters collective climate action by soliciting small monthly donations, starting at $2, from a large group of people. When we act together, we are all empowered to affect bigger change. Every month, onexeveryone awards all collected funds to an organization working toward climate balance.

She’s in Power is proud to have been the October 2020 onexeveryone recipient with our work to innovate a sustainable community today by developing the diverse clean energy workforce of tomorrow. The donation will be used to kickstart 2021 Power Projects and reduce our community’s carbon footprint.

Learn more and join the climate movement at onexeveryone.org.

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The power of 2020 projects

2020’s batch of Power Projects included three partnerships with Fort Collins Utilities and the CSU Energy Institute to help our community plan and implement greater solar energy use.

Ishita Kekare and Archana Sajeev measured the impact of installing PV solar systems on homes in Fort Collins. They found that energy consumption after PV installation remained essentially flat (1.5% increase for Kekare and 3% decrease for Sajeev) and more than half of the solar energy generated was transferred to the city’s energy grid vs. used by PV system owners (54% was returned to the grid for Kekare and 58% for Sajeev). This greater understanding of residential energy use and how much PV-generated energy is being transferred to the grid will allow Fort Collins Utilities to increase PV installations to support the city’s climate action plan.

Giuliana Seretti developed a new modeling process that will allow the City of Fort Collins to have a more accurate estimate of our community’s PV system generation. The current model provides estimates on a system-by-system basis. With approximately 2,000 PV systems to account for, making accurate, community-wide PV output estimates is a challenge. Seretti’s updated modeling method will give the city the big-picture view it needs, and at near real-time.

“These projects were all quite technical in nature and led by two master’s candidates and a senior Bachelor of Science student, all in engineering,” said John Bleem of JRB Energy Solutions and the CSU Energy Institute, who was a mentor for all three Power Projects. But any young woman who is interested in climate action is welcome. “Future She’s in Power projects can be quite different, less technical and exploring broader topics. We want to engage young people in STEM and clean energy.”

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