Interns forge unique paths to clean energy careers
The opportunity to intern at TruNorth Solar
CEEM member TruNorth Solar is a solar installation company specializing in residential, commercial and utility-sized PV projects. The company takes on interns each year to help grow the next generation of the clean energy workforce. This year, Alex Poster and Carl Ludewig were hired to learn more about the business and industry. Alex is a senior in college studying economics and Carl has a degree in Geology and is now working on a master’s in environmental policy and doing research on energy equity.
When asked why he took the role, Alex explained, “I contacted TruNorth to learn about the available internship opportunities and there were opportunities to be involved company-wide. Beyond the actual role though, everyone sounded so passionate about what they do, and how the job is bigger than just what they’re doing on a day-to-day basis and I really enjoyed that aspect of it.”
Carl was interested in solar and solar development from an early age as his family had a ground-mount solar system at their home. He had applied to the role a few times and was interested in learning more about the whole process from sales to procurement to installation.
Learning from the ground up
Though they have different interests and backgrounds, Alex and Carl’s internships started the same way – learning from the ground up about the business. Each intern spent the summer on an installation crew, learning from the teams about ground and roof-mounted systems and the complexities of each job. No two days were exactly the same and that provided a lot of challenge and excitement in the role. They each said similar things about their time over the summer – they enjoyed being outside, enjoyed the new challenges each system presented and learned a lot about solar and the industry in the process.
“It is really important to understand how the systems work in the field to understand where improvements can be made in the process, which is where my interests lie and what I am going to school for,” explained Alex.
A customized internship experience
After their work with the installation crews, each intern was given the opportunity to assess what they wanted from the experience and where they would like to continue contributing to the company. For Alex, an economics major, this meant spending time learning with the designers and permitters and the accounting and warehouse staff to find an area he could offer his expertise. His role has evolved now into a warehouse management position where he works to improve operations by working with the crews to document any changes happening on the sites, note what spare parts are needed, track changes in modules, accept deliveries, stage products, and learn from the head of operations about procurement, billing and finance.
Alex added, “Whatever you specialize in right now, there is room for you in the industry, electrical, mechanical, permitting, economics, most companies are hiring across the board. Whether you think you’d be useful or not, you should try. You’d be surprised by the number of jobs there really are.”
For Carl, the complexities of the job keep him engaged. “When I first started, I liked learning the entire process, but I definitely thought the process was a lot easier before I really dug in. The procurement and permitting/utilities process has been challenging,” he explains. He is now working to create Standard Operating Procedures to help the company’s workflow.
“One thing that makes me excited is the amount of legislation supporting the clean energy industry right now. It is really coming to the forefront of peoples’ minds and there are going to be so many projects coming. Clean energy is the way of the future, and I can’t think of another industry where the job outlook is what it is. That said, I’d really like to continue working in the industry, putting my skills in economics to use,” said Alex.
Opportunities to learn in this sector are endless and it is constantly changing. I’d like to stay in the energy sector after this, possibly through sustainability planning for cities. This is a field where people are so passionate and the jobs can be fun and rewarding – especially when working hands-on and outside, with a new challenge every project,” explains Carl about his plans after he completes his masters.