One might say Michael Coogan’s path to clean energy began in the late 1990s, on his way to the grocery store. An avid recycler, he embraced sustainability before it regularly made newspaper headlines in reference to climate change.
“I've been a recycler since I came out of the womb,” said Coogan. “I was taking my grocery bags to the store long before it became a fashionable thing to do.”
Coogan, a writer and editor from Boston, Massachusetts, began his career working at The Boston Globe while attending Northeastern University. After graduating with a degree in journalism, he found that jobs for journalists were scarce, so he went into business writing for an insurance company. From there, his career followed a path that brought him to the intersection of journalism and clean energy.
In 2010, Coogan found himself at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of the Executive Secretariat, where his passion for writing merged with his commitment to helping the planet. Inspired by the Plain Language Writing Act of 2010, Coogan developed DOE’s plain-language training program: He’s taught more than 100 classes at DOE and its sites nationwide, as well as other federal agencies, such as the FBI and State Department. The goal of the program is to help federal workers and contractors write more clearly and give the public information they can understand and use. This is especially true about complicated subjects, such as the basics of solar photovoltaic cells.
Though his role doesn’t directly involve clean energy, Coogan said that doesn’t stop him from implementing eco-conscious practices in his everyday life. While he remains dedicated to doing his part to conserve valuable resources and promote a more sustainable environment, he also maintains a healthy perspective.
“I feel that I’m doing my role in reducing the carbon footprint in this country and globally. I do everything I can, and the only thing I have control over is my own actions,” said Coogan.
Clean En∙er∙gy Cham∙pi∙on
/klēn/ /ˈenərjē/ /ˈCHampēən/
1. A person or group that takes action to support or join the transition to a renewable energy economy, with the knowledge that reducing carbon emissions provides daily benefits to every American so they can live happy and healthy lives.
In 2022, Coogan replaced his home’s roof. Initially considering solar panels, he stumbled upon a game-changing alternative—solar shingles—after reading an article in The Washington Post. Intrigued by the technology, Coogan attended a home show and found a company that installed solar shingles.
“The thing with this technology is that it allows them to put enough shingles down on your roof to match the electricity you use,” said Coogan.
Solar shingles belong to a suite of products known as building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) systems. These systems offer alternatives to rooftop solar panels, like integrating solar technologies directly into roofing, windows, or facades. BIPV products have been available for over a decade, but adoption has been slower than predicted. In 2022, EERE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office and Building Technologies Office issued a request for information to better understand the commercial and technical challenges of these technologies.
But solar shingles are working for Coogan: After consultations and completing the necessary permit processes, Coogan said, “The electrical people came; they gave me a notice that I could throw the switch. They said, 'And by the way, when you throw the switch, you're going to be the first person in the D.C. metropolitan area to have this new type of solar shingle.'”
Coogan also actively seeks ways to reduce his transportation-related carbon footprint. In addition to minimizing his driving by commuting just three miles roundtrip to work and using public transportation, he is exploring the option of electric vehicles to reduce fuel emissions further.
“When the time comes for me to buy a new car, I'm certainly going to look closely at electric vehicles and see if it’s right for me,” said Coogan.