January 14, 2021
Hello! I’m Virginia, the new Manager of Community Relations. I am excited to begin 2021 working with Clean Energy Economy Minnesota to strengthen our relationships with our members and the broader community. I’m hoping that we will be able to bring back in-person events this year, too!
I have spent the bulk of my career working in clean energy, after starting in public finance. Most recently, I was Director of Market Development at Nokomis Energy, where I examined the market for utility-scale solar with small Minnesota utilities. The majority of solar energy in Minnesota is connected to Xcel Energy’s grid, though there are more than 170 electric utilities in our state. Small distribution utilities have a great opportunity to connect renewable energy generation facilities to their grids near to customer electric loads, which is efficient and can provide greater community resiliency.
I’ve also had conversations with electric customers across the state who are unable to install their own solar photovoltaic systems and wish their utility would generate electricity locally. However, these utilities are often restricted in their ability to generate their own electricity through long-term contracts with generation and transmission utilities. These utilities are also justifiably conservative in looking at large investments, so access to financing and incentive programs can make developing projects easier. I look forward to using this understanding of the electricity system to work with CEEM’s members on policies and solutions to help advance our clean energy economy.
Before joining Nokomis Energy, I launched the local branch of a national nonprofit as Minnesota Program Director for Solar United Neighbors. Solar United Neighbors provides education and technical services to residents and businesses who are interested in rooftop solar. I loved connecting with community partners to create bulk purchase groups across the state: from the Iron Range and Bemidji in the north, to Kandiyohi County and Rochester in the south. In the first year of our program, we were able to help more than 60 families and local businesses go solar, resulting in nearly 500 kW of small-scale solar.
I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Public Policy Analysis and Biology from Pomona College in Claremont, California. I also have a Master’s of Public Policy in Science, Technology & Environmental Policy from the Humphrey School at the University of Minnesota.
I grew up here in the Twin Cities and am a Minnesotan at heart. Despite going to college in Los Angeles and living abroad in Australia and Ireland, I’ve always felt Minnesota is my home. My husband and I have two children, two dogs, and three gerbils. We all love to spend time outdoors (well, maybe not the gerbils), whether near our home in Chaska or up at our cabin in Nisswa. I love to run on local trails, cook Mexican food, bake, and knit, especially in the winter by a roaring fire.
Looking forward to working together in 2021!