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Clean energy journalism for a cooler tomorrow

Charging Up: A chat with Tasha McCarter, VP of solar engineering at RWE

Plus, climatetech career moves at Reactivate, Energy Innovation, Arcadia, Greentown Labs, Energy Vault and more.
By Maria Virginia Olano, Eric Wesoff

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A Black woman with long dark hair wearing a red top next to a stylized graphic that says Charging Up

Canary Media’s Charging Up column chronicles gender diversity in the climatetech sector. Part one is a short Q&A with an industry role model about their career path. Part two features updates on career transitions. Please send feedback and tips to wesoff@​canarymedia.​com.

Tasha McCarter: Born to build

Tasha McCarter is vice president of solar engineering at RWE. This interview has been edited and condensed for brevity.

How did you end up on this career path?

My mother said that when I was a toddler, I would take toy cars and trucks apart and bring her the individual pieces. By the time I was seven, I was replacing parts on the washing machine. But it was a third-grade science experiment that involved a hand generator, a lightbulb and wires that set me on a course to becoming an engineer.

Over the next several years, I participated in programs like the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program and registered in the electronics curriculum at Cass Technical High School. By my senior year of high school, I had a firm handle on Ohm’s law and hands-on experience using an oscilloscope.

I was ready to take that next step in college and knew that I wanted to be an electrical engineer. I applied to two predominantly white institutions (PWIs) and two historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and I was accepted into every school. But only the HBCUs would give me access to their school of engineering, so I went to Tuskegee University to pursue my studies.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

I once read a book called Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway that had the best advice. It says that we will always feel fear when stepping into the unknown. But if we can examine the worst-case scenario and put something in place to mitigate that scenario, the feeling will be limited. I’ve applied this approach several times over, and it really works and has allowed me to soar.

What is a barrier you faced, and how did you overcome it?

Mindset is key to perseverance. I have always been determined to succeed; however, as a result of my early environment, I was reluctant to ask for help. Once I discovered and removed this barrier, I was able to achieve much greater outcomes.

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What do you think are some interesting, overlooked career opportunities in climatetech? 

Climatetech careers can be grouped into three main categories: carbon avoidance, carbon reduction and carbon removal. Many of the emerging, and perhaps overlooked, opportunities are in the carbon reduction and removal space. Sites like The Carbon Curve list a number of carbon-removal job opportunities, while carbon-reduction jobs can be found on LinkedIn, simply by searching the keyword phrase carbon reduction.” Many of the functional skill sets, such as finance, engineering and marketing, are very transferable to these segments of the industry.

What is your superpower?

Over the course of my career, I became extremely adept at balancing responsibilities and priorities. This ability to get things done, coupled with sheer grit and determination, is my superpower.

Career moves

Utopia Hill has been appointed to the role of CEO at Reactivate, a joint venture between Invenergy and Lafayette Square focused on developing renewable energy projects that provide benefits to low- to moderate-income and energy-transition communities. Hill previously served as head of engineering, procurement and construction at Reactivate and, prior to that role, served as VP of renewables construction at Invenergy. Hill has been involved in over 10,000 megawatts’ worth of renewable energy projects including wind, solar and energy storage. Last year, Lafayette’s managing director, John Moran, told Canary that the company had cracked the code on how to make community solar projects financially successful.

Sonia Aggarwal is returning to energy and environmental policy firm Energy Innovation as CEO after a two-year stint at The White House as special assistant to the president for climate policy, innovation and deployment.

Theresa Fariello, senior VP of government affairs and global public policy for United Airlines, is joining the board of Energy Vault, a public company aspiring to provide gravity-based storage, battery storage and green hydrogen energy storage technologies. Last year, Canary Media’s Julian Spector reported on the company’s pivot to battery storage.

Kathryn Ostman has been promoted to executive VP for legal matters at Swift Current Energy, a solar and wind project developer.

Anna Kelly has been promoted to associate VP of regulatory affairs and principal for measurement and verification at Power TakeOff, a company that works to improve energy efficiency at small and medium-sized businesses.

Maggie Mullooly shifted from chief of staff to manager of strategy and planning at Arcadia. The Washington, D.C.–based startup raised a total of $325 million in 2022 and says it’s now on a path to near-term profitability” for its data platform connecting customers to clean energy. Arcadia is the nation’s largest manager of community solar subscriptions, and its data platform is used by 300 other companies to deliver customized clean-energy services.

Amy Van Gelder has joined Gridmatic as VP of retail operations. Gridmatic uses AI to optimize renewable energy participation in wholesale markets by forecasting energy supply, demand and pricing. Van Gelder was previously with Competitive Power Ventures and before that, CleanSky Energy.

Jill Kirkpatrick has been promoted to director of events at climatetech incubator Greentown Labs.

For the record

Climate startups in the United States raised nearly $20 billion in 2022 according to the New York Times

The New York Times reported this week that climate startups in the United States raised nearly $20 billion in 2022, up from $18 billion in 2021 and $7 billion in 2020. The article makes the case that despite recession worries and layoffs in media and tech, climatetech jobs are growing alongside these record investments.

Check it out 

How can climatetech ensure gender parity and diversity as it grows? What are the most exciting roles in the industry, and how can you get your foot in the door? Join us on February 15th at 1:00 pm Eastern for a conversation with three past guests from the column to answer these questions, plus any of yours, at our first-ever online event inspired by this column. You can register here.

Maria Virginia Olano is chief of staff at Canary Media.

Eric Wesoff is the executive director at Canary Media.