Energy Scholars Spotlight: Ryan, Susan, and Tai

LevelTen News
December 8, 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 Ryan Chigogo, Tai Goddard, and Susan Luu to learn a little more about them and their experiences as Energy Scholars.

Ryan Chigogo 

Ryan Chigogo joins us from Bennington College in Vermont, where he is a senior studying Physics and Environmental Studies. He hopes to enter the renewable energy industry in project development post-graduation.  

Why did you apply to Energy Scholars?

It seemed like a great program to gain experience and get an aerial view of the renewable energy industry, and to see where I fit in. I have always been really excited about renewable energy as a solution to the climate crisis, but I had no experience or knowledge of what the industry looks like or what I could potentially do in it.

What life experience drew you to renewable energy? 

I chose to study engineering and physics to make a difference in some way. Initially, I thought I would help people in more practical ways — by developing gadgets or something along those lines. But as I have gotten older, I see the threat of the climate crisis and an exciting opportunity to use renewable energy as a solution. 

I am originally from Zimbabwe, which relies heavily on agriculture. My grandparents are subsistence farmers, and I have seen firsthand the effects of climate change on their lives. But I have also seen the way that they have used renewable energy through solar-powered water pumps to help them combat those effects. 

What has been your favorite part of the program?

I have really enjoyed learning about the project development area. I like the idea of starting with just land, and then, by the end of a project, you can provide energy to so many people. I think that the whole process is so complex and interesting, and it is an area that I really want to delve into and try to fit all the puzzle pieces together. I also really like the analytics side of the program as well. Getting to problem-solve and think about a project’s financial viability, and matching existing projects with companies while factoring in their own needs has been fascinating. Energy Scholars has been a real crash course, and I have found it so valuable.  

Advice for future participants

Come with an open mind, make the most of the program, and enjoy the process. Just see where it leads you. 

What has been your favorite thing in Seattle/Fremont?

The Energy Scholars all spent a lot of time together hanging out. I really liked our trips to Pike Place Market and Golden Gardens Park. 

Any life updates?

I have begun an internship with LevelTen as a Product Intern!

Susan Luu 

Susan Luu is a native Washingtonian and is a junior studying Chemical Engineering at the University of Washington. She knew from her senior year of high school that she wanted to build a STEM-based career in which she could combine her passion for studying science with her desire to protect the environment. While in high school, she participated in Running Start and received an Associate of Arts with her high school diploma. Susan hopes to find a position that will utilize her love of science to help fix significant environmental problems. 

Why did you apply to Energy Scholars?

I applied to Energy Scholars because of my lack of experience in the field. I also applied because I wanted to see my options for pursuing a career in the renewable energy industry. I'm currently in my junior year, so I wanted to explore my options now so I could focus my efforts on the part of the industry that I enjoyed most. 

Can you tell us more about the lab work you conducted while you were a Running Start student?

The Running Start program allowed me to engage in more intensive coursework as a high school student. During this time, I worked with a chemistry professor at Columbia Basin College, Professor Melby. He had a huge passion for sustainability, rode his bike everywhere, kept a garden, and emphasized the importance of sustainability and environmental consciousness through his teachings. 

Our lab work focused on creating carbon sponges to help remove carbon from the atmosphere. We analyzed how air quality was affected by tree density, and we used magnets to pull microplastics from water. I graduated before I could see the completed findings, but that work drew me towards science, renewable energy, and how we can use science to fix large environmental problems.

How does your experience with LevelTen play into your future plans?

I want to work in the renewable energy field, but maybe in a more technical sub-sector. The things I've learned as an Energy Scholar will help me be a better engineer. At the Earth Lab presentation, a common theme that was mentioned was the importance of cross-training in different sectors. I believed this before coming to the internship, but now I'm glad I'm an Energy Scholar. I feel like I can contribute more to the renewable energy field with my technical degree and newly acquired knowledge of the marketing, economics, and business sides of the industry. 

What has been your favorite part of the program?

I think it was our visit to Vestas Steelhead and learning all about project development, as that is where I see a future career. 

What has been your favorite thing in Seattle/Fremont?

Walking to Gas Works Park, taking the light rail, and just exploring Seattle. 

What is your advice for future participants?

Build a strong intern network while in the program!

Any exciting life updates?

I recently got an undergraduate research position at the University of Washington. I'm going to be doing research on producing sustainable hydrogen by using self-assembled monolayers. The application of this research is to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and hopefully improve solar technology.

Tai Goddard

Tai Goddard grew up in Trinidad and Tobago and currently attends Miami University in Ohio, where he is a senior completing his degree in Chemical Engineering. He hopes to join the renewable energy industry, possibly as an environmental engineer, post-graduation.  

What was your experience in renewable energy before LevelTen?

Besides educating myself, I have not had any experience with renewable energy before LevelTen. I was drawn to the Energy Scholars Program because I felt it could help put me firmly on a path towards a career in the industry. I’d like to work to support the world’s transition to clean energy so large counties and small islands alike can not only survive, but enjoy future prosperity.

In your application, you talked about how your “interest in building global climate resilience” brought you to environmental and chemical engineering. What led you down that path?

During my primary education, we learned about climate change and the greenhouse effect, so from a young age, I have been concerned about the environment. It never really made sense to me that we would continue to pollute the planet if we knew we needed to change. When it came time to decide what degree to pursue, I knew I wanted to do something in the science field, and I enjoyed math and physics too. When I found Chemical Engineering, it felt like a good fit, and I was intrigued by how broad the field was—with paths to research, biomedical, and environmental engineering. Environmental Engineering stood out to me because of the work being done in pollution control. 

Why are you passionate about sustainability?

Growing up in my home country of Trinidad and Tobago, I experienced a country that relied heavily on natural gas as its primary economic driver. It’s been quoted as second in global emissions per capita, and yet the people living there are some of the groups most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. I know that renewable energy has the ability to power economies large and small across a variety of geographies. That is why the renewable industry has always interested me — since I know it can benefit my home country and all nations worldwide.

What has been your favorite part of the program?

I really enjoyed learning about the LevelTen Energy Marketplace. I also liked learning about the whole process behind how projects are funded and developed.  

Any advice for future participants?

There is a lot to learn, so come prepared to learn! 

What has been your favorite thing in Seattle/Fremont?

All the different food I got to try!

Any exciting life updates?

Senior year is going strong. I am working on a capstone project where I am trying to design a system that can recover heat from compost piles. I am also applying for jobs and grad schools.

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.

Continue reading

Subscribe to the Acceleration Blog