Social Entrepreneurs

Published on August 17th, 2016 | by Carolyn Fortuna

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Women Eco-Entrepreneurs in Solar Energy

What does it take to be successful women eco-entrepreneurs in the field of solar energy?  First, it takes persons with vision for renewable energy and drive growth beyond what’s expected.  Then it takes determination to acquire financing.  Finally, it takes expertise in planning and execution to bring the idea to actual practice.

women in solar

Allow me to introduce you to Wandee Khunchornyakong, whose ingenuity and wherewithal has brought 36 solar farms supplying 260 mw to Thailand. With help from the International Finance Corporation, her Solar Power Company  is one of the largest solar power generation companies in Thailand today. She acquired permits when few others sought them and made plans to set up large solar photovoltaic plants in the sunny, rural areas of northeast Thailand.

Thailand aims to eventually increase solar energy production to 6,000 MW by 2036—or 9 percent of total electricity generation. That’s in large part to Wandee Khunchornyakong, who won the 2014 United Nations’ Momentum for Change award for her innovative efforts to address both the climate change and wider economic, social, and environmental challenges. Oh, did I mention she was listed as #47 in Forbe’s Thailand’s 50 Richest?

Working toward Diversity in the Solar Energy Industry

What happens when a lack of diversity exists in an industry? Well, Kristen Nicole, whose career has been located at the intersection of the utility, financial, and construction industries, saw how the confluence of these industrial cultures impacted the overall solar industry culture.  She also observed many of her female colleagues opting out of the solar industry in pursuit of more supportive career environments.  As a result, she founded Women in Solar Energy (WISE), which seeks to advance women in the solar energy industry while promoting diversity and forward thinking business practices.

One of the WISE initiatives is a partnership with international solar energy industry societies and non-profits to support work at the confluence of gender, energy and economic development. A partner is Solar Sister, which has a goal to eradicate energy poverty by empowering women with economic opportunity through solar and clean cooking technology to even the most remote communities in rural Africa.

The Female Contingent at the Solar Power International Conference

And these two women-led solar energy businesses aren’t alone.  In fact, they seem to be in good company, according to Lisa Ann Pinkerton in The Energy Collective.  As example, the conference at Solar Power International, which will take place in Las Vegas from September 12 – 15, has a vibrant and engaged female contingent. The Women in Solar luncheon has several goals:  

  • To provide present and future women business leaders with a unique forum to exchange ideas;
  • To provide women an opportunity to gain thought leadership on professional development and issues important to women in today’s workforce; and
  • To offer a significant opportunity for corporations and industry leaders to directly contribute to the development of women leaders in the community.

Whether it’s for empowerment or increasing the quality of life for women and children around the world, women eco-entrepreneurs in the field of solar energy are here to stay.  The result is a humanistic approach that’s producing positive change.
Photo Credit:  Dept of Energy Solar Decathlon

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About the Author

writes from her home in Chepachet, RI, where she advocates with her lake association for chemical-free solutions to eradicate invasive species. She’s an organic gardener, nature lover, and semi-vegetarian (no red meat since 1980) who draws upon digital media literacy and learning to spread the word about sustainability issues. Please follow me on Twitter and Facebook and Google+



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