Energy Scholars Spotlight: Jessica, Daniel, Somie, and Dereck

LevelTen News
November 30, 2022

This summer, LevelTen Energy hosted its second Energy Scholars mentorship program: a comprehensive initiative designed to address the energy sector’s opportunity gap by providing college students from underrepresented backgrounds with a fully-paid clean energy educational experience. In collaboration with our stellar partner organizations — Energy GPS, Vestas Steelhead America, Microsoft, Google, and the University of Washington — the Energy Scholars Program provides an immersive curriculum for ambitious students looking to break into the cleantech space. To learn more about the Energy Scholars program, click here

We wanted to take a moment to highlight this year’s ten amazing scholars and recognize them for their hard work this summer. We sat down with scholars Jessica Canning, Daniel Montes, Somi Nnachetta, and Dereck Sands to learn a little more about them and their experiences as Energy Scholars.

Jessica Canning

Jessica Canning joins us from Wesleyan University, where she is studying Economics. Jessica hopes to secure a position at a company working to bring more renewables online: whether that’s through project development, negotiating PPAs, asset management, or consulting. 

What drew you to renewable energy?

I knew if I was going to work, it needed to be in a field that was not damaging to the planet or local communities. In the past, one could work in a field like oil and gas and not see the direct impacts of that work, but now we see those real-life impacts. We are at such a critical point with climate change that if we do not make a profound effort to address it, something drastically bad will happen. I think renewables are an excellent way to get into the energy industry without harming the environment. 

Are there any influences, events, or mentors that led you to the renewable/sustainability field?

My mother has always been an environmentalist. As a family, we had a compost bin in our backyard, never had plastic water bottles in our house, and would buy second-hand clothing as young children because we did not want to buy new clothes all the time. She got plastic bags banned from our town and worked on the environmental commission. 

My mother instilled in me that the Earth was something to be protected, and that we are all individually responsible for our own footprint. Even though I grew up with this mindset, I always knew that we could not just hope that everyone would play their part, so when it came to a possible career, I knew I wanted to have an impact on a larger scale.

What was your favorite outing while in Seattle/Fremont?

Shopping at the Vintage Mall in Fremont. 

Any advice for future participants?

Do research on the industry before you apply to make sure you have a solid baseline understanding. And consider every opportunity that comes your way!

Any big life updates since you left the program?

Yes! I am currently a Sales Intern at LevelTen, and am studying abroad at the London School of Economics.

Daniel Montes

Daniel Montes is another Washington native in the 2022 Energy Scholars program. Originally from Yakima, Washington, Daniel is a junior at the University of Washington, where he studies Chemical Engineering. While he is not certain what his post-graduation plans will look like, he hopes to find a career that will allow him to stay in Seattle.  

You really seem to be set on a career in renewables. What drew you to renewable tech? 

In middle school, I was a part of the TSA (Technology Students Association) program. Students would spend one year working on projects before participating in a competition in SeaTac. My project focused on water treatment, and it really increased my environmental awareness. I learned I liked the chemistry involved in the water treatment process, and also learned about hydroelectric dams. Seeing energy generated by water at no additional cost (aside from the construction of the dam) really caught my attention. 

In high school, I participated in a program where I conducted independent research on how Co2 emissions from gasoline change water acidity. I think all of these small introductions to renewable energy and environmental pollution at a young age really set my path toward a career in renewables and technology.

So far, what has been your favorite part of the Energy Scholars Program?

I have enjoyed learning about project development. I found the Steelhead presentation interesting and loved their focus on turbine technology. I enjoyed the chance to have hands-on experiences and the brainstorming we did on real-world problems.

Any advice for future Energy Scholars?

Take a lot of notes — even though it's a LOT of information! Be prepared for some content overlap; even when topics may seem similar, there are different perspectives to be seen. 

Any big life updates since you left the program?

I joined a renewable energy club called GRID (Global Renewables Infrastructure Development). The mission of the club is to research and improve the impact that renewables have on off-grid/rural communities.

Somie Nnachetta 

Somie Nnachetta joins our impressive group of Energy Scholars from the University of Texas at Dallas, where she is a senior studying Geological and Earth Sciences. She has volunteered as a pharmacy intern in Lagos, Nigeria, where she witnessed the health impact of uncontrolled coal fires on her patients.

Are there any influences, events, or mentors that led you to the renewable energy field? 

Growing up in Nigeria, I got to experience a country that is heavily reliant on petroleum. My mother worked for Shell, and our schooling was focused heavily on oil. I saw the daily impact of fossil fuels on my community and the environment. I originally went to school in pursuit of a degree in the medical field. During one of my internships, I worked with vulnerable patients and saw how the environment could affect people’s health. 

I found the intersection of health and environment incredibly interesting but was not sure how to find a career or degree that would merge my two passions. When I got to The University of Texas, I took a class called How Nature Gets Away with Murder, my first introduction to the field of medical geology: which looks at how the environment affects health. I got the opportunity to research this, which exposed me to renewable energy projects in South Africa. I became excited to work in energy because of its global impact on all industries. Being an Energy Scholar has given me a clearer idea on the different sectors of this industry, and provided a step-by-step guide on how to enter each one. It has also given me better insight into how to compare future graduate programs.

What has been your favorite part of the program?

I have enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with other students my age who have a similar passion for the environment. It has created a space where we can all be authentic, listen, and contribute to ideas. I believe that the best solutions come from a diverse group of people with different focus areas. We all bring something unique to the table. 

Transferring to UTD during peak COVID times definitely came with lots of isolation. Thankfully, my fellow interns and I developed such a strong bond at LevelTen, and I am very excited for our bright futures. This internship is also a paid opportunity, which might not seem like a big detail, but I feel it shows that the company really values what I bring and my experience. 

What has been your favorite thing in Seattle/Fremont?

Karaoke! I know a lot of songs, and it was a great way to connect with the other interns. I also enjoyed just walking around Seattle, and having easy public transportation was so different. 

Advice for future participants

1. Give your all.

2. Make connections: TALK TO PEOPLE and learn about them.

3. The jobs you will get in the future come from connections. Making connections now is critical. 

Any big life updates since you left the program?

I have joined the UTD Wind Energy Club. We have actually been selected to participate in the Department of Energy Collegiate Wind Competition!

Dereck Sands 

Dereck Sands joined this year’s Energy Scholars cohort from Fisk University, where he is a senior studying Computer Science. Dereck has always had an interest in sustainability and renewable energy, and is excited to increase his knowledge of the renewable energy industry. 

What drew you to computer science?

Growing up, my parents really worked to instill the idea that knowledge is power. If I didn’t understand something, they would constantly tell me to Google it. My dad actually introduced me to science when I was really little. He had this encyclopedia, and I would spend hours looking through it. Like most teenagers, my interests shifted, and I became a gamer (there was something about fighting bad guys that I really liked). When I found the Computer Science major, it felt like a great blend of subjects I was already interested in. 

What was your experience in renewable energy before LevelTen?

I was always interested in renewable energy when I was younger. In high school, I took an environmental management class where we learned about renewable energy, deforestation, and sustainability. While I have not taken any classes on renewables in college, I feel like I have gotten a crash course through this program. 

While living in the Bahamas, we frequently had power outages. It never made sense that with the perfect climate for solar or even wind power, the Bahamian power system was still so heavily reliant on fossil fuels. While I was away at school in 2019, hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas. Due to warmer water temperatures, the hurricane remained on the island for a prolonged period of time and caused significant damage. While I was not there, I still felt the effects of being unable to contact my friends and family back home. 

Why did you apply to Energy Scholars?

After researching LevelTen and seeing how the company merges two of my passions — computer science and sustainable energy — I knew I had to apply. 

So far, what has been your favorite part of the program?

I enjoyed our outing to Vestas Steelhead to see the manufacturing process for wind turbines. 

Any advice for future program participants?

Be ready to learn. You won't know everything, and there is a lot to learn. Be a sponge. Do research afterward, even if it is not interesting at the time: you can find a link to things you find interesting. Don't be discouraged by not being super technical or the “perfect fit” for the program. The program does a great job of making all these new concepts accessible. 

What has been your favorite thing in Seattle/Fremont?

I loved my first experience kayaking in Lake Union with the other interns!

Do you believe you or someone you know is a good candidate for the 2023 Energy Scholars program? Keep an eye out for applications opening in Spring of next year!

LevelTen Energy

LevelTen Energy is the leading provider of renewable transaction infrastructure, delivering the marketplaces, software, automated analytics, and expertise required to accelerate clean energy transactions. The LevelTen Platform is the world’s largest online hub for renewable energy buyers, sellers, advisors, asset owners and financiers. The Platform includes the LevelTen Energy Marketplace, which delivers access to more than 4,500 power purchase agreement price offers spanning 25 countries in North America and Europe. It also includes the LevelTen Asset Marketplace, which brings together over 700 renewable energy project developers and owners, and delivers the online tools and expertise they need to buy, sell and finance assets quickly. Together, LevelTen and its partners share #OneGoal to accelerate the energy transition.

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