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Solar Sisters: The Women Lighting the Way to a Sustainable Future

Updated: 6 days ago



We’re celebrating Women’s History Month by spotlighting the remarkable women who've illuminated the solar energy sector with their groundbreaking contributions. As a proud, certified woman-owned company, we understand firsthand the power and importance of creating welcoming spaces for underrepresented communities to build a more equitable, sustainable future. The field of solar, much like the broader realms of science and engineering, has been significantly shaped by individuals whose efforts don't always make the headlines. Yet, it's these pioneering women who've blazed trails through their innovation, advocacy, and commitment to creating a more inclusive industry.


Join us in honoring some of the remarkable women who have made indelible marks on the solar industry throughout history with their pioneering research, policy advocacy, tireless efforts to build a more inclusive workforce, and innovative leadership. These trailblazing women have lit up our world and are inspiring the next generation of solar champions.


 

Katharine Burr Blodgett - Not only did Katharine shatter ceilings as the first female Ph.D. in physics from Cambridge, but at just 20, she joined General Electric's labs as their first female scientist. It was here that she pioneered research to achieve an invisible glass that cast no reflection – a cornerstone for today’s efficient, water-repellent solar panels.






Mária Telkes - Mária, our “Mother of Solar,” migrated from Budapest to the US in 1900 and invented groundbreaking solar devices, including a solar oven and water distilling systems. In 1948 Dr. Telkes worked with Eleanor Raymond in the Dover Sun House, considered one of the first solar heated houses, and was involved in the development of the first fully solar-powered home in the 1980s, led by the US Department of Energy.





Hattie Carthan - Known as “The Tree Lady of Brooklyn,” Hattie was an environmental and community advocate for the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn she called home. She was one of the first black organizers to regreen a neighborhood and is known for her revolutionary work to save a historically significant tree from demolition slated as part of a development project. Hattie leveraged this win to spark an ongoing movement and we join SolarOne in celebrating her for the environmental work she pioneered.



Monica Oliphant - Starting as a laser scientist but transitioning to studying Australia's energy grid, Monica joined the solar energy sector in the early 70’s during the Arab oil crisis, inspired by the idea that if solar energy were in the mainstream, there would be no need to fight wars over oil. Her work cleared the way for the country to adopt solar and wind.






Annie Easley – Annie was a mathematician turned “human computer” for NASA, where she and a female coworker defied the dress code forcing women to wear skirts or dresses and heels by showing up to work in pantsuits. In her time there, she helped develop coding technology vital for energy solutions in space and on Earth, contributing to the preliminary stages of solar and wind energy projects, as well as battery technology that was used for early hybrid vehicles.




Edith Clarke Edith’s role transcended being GE's "human computer" as she invented the Clarke Calculator, simplifying the complexities of electrical transmission and aiding the development of modern solar power distribution. She would go on to be the first female electrical engineering professor at the University of Texas.






Denise Gray - Known as General Motors' "battery czar," Denise’s work in lithium-ion battery technology for electric vehicles has crossed over to solar, enhancing energy storage solutions crucial for the sustainable use of solar power. Through her contributions, Gray has indirectly supported the growth and feasibility of solar energy in mainstream applications.






Riley Neugebauer - Riley founded Solar for Women with the goal of creating a supportive environment where women in solar could learn and help each other succeed, with a goal of getting more women up on roofs to install PV systems. Women currently make up one-third of the solar energy workforce and account for an even smaller fraction of solar installers — just 5.5% according to solar industry officials surveyed by the U.S. Energy and Employment Report. Riley's initiative underscores the importance of community and mentorship in bringing more women into solar, especially in technical roles like installation.


Kristal Hansley - Kristal founded WeSolar, Inc. on Juneteenth in 2020 and is the nation’s first Black Woman CEO in the community solar industry. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Kristal founded WeSolar in Maryland where industry opportunities grew after the state passed solar-enabling legislation and deregulated the energy market to increase consumer choice. Kristal founded WeSolar to provide affordable access to local community solar for underserved communities and reduce the cost of electricity for households. 



Abigail Ross Hopper - Abby has been a strong advocate for policies supporting renewable energy, including solar power, throughout her career. In her current role as President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), a leading trade association for the solar industry, she has led efforts to pass solar-enabling legislation at both the state and federal levels. Under Hopper's leadership, SEIA played a significant role in driving innovation and growth within the solar industry. She has been involved in initiatives aimed at expanding access to solar energy, improving technology, reducing costs, and increasing the competitiveness of solar power in the energy market. Hopper’s leadership serves as a role model for women aspiring to pursue careers in solar energy and related fields.


 

These women, from disparate times and various backgrounds, have made much-needed strides in fostering a more inclusive and equitable industry while advancing critical renewable energy technologies. This month and every month, let's honor their legacy by building a brighter, more sustainable future for all.

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