Founding board passes the baton amid a period of rapid growth for community solar

[Pictured from left: Outgoing Board Chair Hannah Muller and Incoming Board Chair Tom Hunt]

On Monday, the Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA) announced that four leaders from across the community solar industry will be joining its elected board of directors to lead the sector’s next phase of growth. Joe Henri of Dimension Renewable Energy, Sarah Wochos of Borrego Solar, Laura Stern of Nautilus Solar, and Richard Caperton of Arcadia will join the board’s three existing members: Tom Hunt of Pivot Energy, who will take over as board chair; Kelly Friend of Nexamp, who will be vice-chair; and Salar Naini of Turning Point Energy.

The new members replace two outgoing founding board members: Jennifer Spinosi and chair Hannah Muller.

“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished during my tenure as chair,” said Muller. Most importantly we put the right people in the right places which is critical to success. The most important legacy you can leave is to find somebody who can do the job better than you and make yourself irrelevant, which I feel like I have become,” she added with a laugh.

In the nearly six years since the CCSA board was founded, CCSA and the community solar industry have undergone significant changes—many of them thanks to the leadership and guidance of the board.

“We started as a small coalition of businesses where the businesses themselves were very much rolling up their sleeves with the support of a few consultants, including me,” said Jeff Cramer, executive director of the Coalition for Community Solar Access. “In that time, we’ve gone from 100 megawatts of community solar in the ground to over 3 gigawatts—and the potential for continued exponential growth for years to come, and 11 full time staff around the country.”

“I live in upstate New York, and you drive around here, and western Massachusetts, and there’s community solar farms dotted all through these rolling hills,” said Muller. “It’s become an everyday way of life, at least in this part of the country. That’s worlds different from where we were five, six years ago.”

With that growth has come an evolution in needs and priorities.

“Community solar used to be a lot more complicated, but from a policy standpoint, and from a product and business standpoint, the industry has come a long way,” said Cramer. “There’s been a lot of innovation in the marketplace that has helped fuel the growth of the sector and deliver greater benefits to customers. For example, signing up for community solar now is as easy as subscribing to Netflix.”

Those innovations and advantages have translated to a marketplace that is much more eager to adopt community solar, and legislators who want to craft policies to bring the benefits of community solar to more of their constituencies.

“There’s an incredible opportunity in front of us, and we just need to grab it,” said Muller. “Most government and corporate leaders are now fully endorsing our country transitioning to a clean-powered energy system. The question isn’t whether we transition, but how.”

Muller’s background at the U.S. Department of Energy, Vote Solar, and growing up working on political campaigns equipped her to strategize around the legislative tools needed to grow the industry.

“She had been in the trenches fighting these fights and had those kind of policy and campaign chops to do the kind of visioning that was necessary to see the potential of community solar—and help apply it to our work,” said Cramer. “She put her own time and reputation on the table in saying, ‘I care about how this market evolves because I believe in it.’ I doubt we’d be where we are today without her leadership.”

Moving forward, Muller sees the board continuing to take action in order to advance the industry.

“I always tell the board and staff that CCSA should exist to fulfill a mission —not just to exist,” she said. “I wanted CCSA to be a group that was filling a need and really making a difference in the marketplace, and fortunately, I think that approach has worked.”