Dr. Becca Jones-Albertus, Director
Dr. Becca Jones-Albertus is the director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO). SETO has an annual budget of $280 million to support early-stage research and development projects to advance photovoltaic and concentrating solar-thermal power technology, improve solar’s ability to support the reliability and resilience of the electric grid, and provide technical information to support decision-makers. Dr. Jones-Albertus also works with DOE leadership on key cross-cutting issues such as grid modernization, systems integration, and workforce training.
Dr. Jones-Albertus has spent her career advancing solar technology, from fundamental research and development to manufacturing. Her research roles have spanned academia, industry, and the national labs. She has been at SETO since 2013, serving first as the photovoltaics program manager and then as SETO’s deputy director. Prior to joining the Department of Energy, Dr. Jones-Albertus worked at Solar Junction, where she led efforts to develop solar cells that twice achieved world-record efficiencies, and then transitioned the technology to manufacturing.
Dr. Jones-Albertus graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University with a B.S. in electrical engineering and holds an M.S. and Ph.D. in materials science and engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, where she co-founded an organization dedicated to improving environmental sustainability on campus. She has more than 10 patents and 40 technical publications.
Maria Tikoff Vargas, Deputy Director (on detail)
Maria T. Vargas is the Deputy Director for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO). SETOs goal is to advance solar energy technology, improve solar’s ability to support the reliability and resilience of the electric grid, and provide a knowledge base to support the solar industry.
Since 2011, Vargas has served as a Senior Program Advisor and Director of DOE’s Better Buildings Initiative. Thru Better Buildings, DOE works with leaders in the public and private sectors to make American buildings at least 20 percent more efficient in the next decade. Hundreds of chief executive officers, University presidents and state and local leaders are partners with DOE and are upgrading buildings across their portfolio and sharing innovative solutions and strategies as models for others to follow. Collectively, partners have saved $1.4 quadrillion BTUs of energy, savings of nearly $8.5 billion, since the program began.
Prior to her work at DOE, Ms. Vargas was the Brand Manager for the ENERGY STAR program for almost 20 years while at the US Environmental Protection Agency. Vargas also served as the Director of the Green Lights Partnership. She has been involved in policy work on the issues of ozone depletion, global climate change, and related environmental and energy issues since 1985.
Ms. Vargas received a Bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College (Swarthmore, PA) in Political Science and Economics and a Master’s degree from the University of Oregon (Eugene, Oregon) in Public Affairs and Urban and Regional Planning and was inducted in the Energy Efficiency Hall of Fame in 2014.
Ebony Brooks, Operations Supervisor
Ebony Brooks is the operations supervisor for the Solar Energy Technologies Office, a position that she has held since March 2014. Prior to joining SETO, Ebony served as a lead budget analyst managing the Weatherization and Intergovernmental Programs portfolio. Ebony began her federal service in 1999 in the Office of Science and went on to manage the Office of Science's internship and fellowship programs within the Office of Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists. She was selected to join the first Assistant Management Board, which recognized rising talent within the Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
Ebony holds two bachelor's degrees – one in economics and another in government and politics – from the University of Maryland-College Park, as well as a master's degree in organization management from Trinity University, Washington, DC.
Garrett Nilsen, Technology to Market Program Manager and Acting Soft Costs Program Manager
Garrett Nilsen is the program manager for the Technology to Market team, having spent the previous five years serving as a technology advisor for the team, as well as the acting program manager for the Soft Costs team. He works with businesses of all sizes focusing on the development of innovative products and manufacturing technologies to help drive down costs and increase the deployment of solar energy. He enjoys helping all innovators in the solar energy space de-risk their products and processes to make them attractive to private investment along with helping them access the resources and develop the skills needed to make an impact on solar energy.
Prior to joining SETO, Garrett was in graduate school in Sweden and Germany. Prior to that, he worked for Technologies Solutions and Invention, a small business in Connecticut that was an awardee on government contracts to develop optics-based devices for various government customers.
Garrett has a B.S. in physics from Union College (NY) and an M.S. in solar energy engineering from Hogskolan Dalarna (Dalarna University) in Sweden.
Dr. Avi Shultz, Concentrating Solar-Thermal Power Program Manager
Dr. Avi Shultz is the program manager for concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO), which supports research, development, and demonstration of solar-thermal components and systems that can enable wide-spread deployment of low-cost CSP with thermal energy storage. Dr. Shultz has been with SETO since 2013, where he started as a science and technology policy fellow, supporting the CSP program on a wide variety of topics.
Prior to joining SETO, Dr. Shultz was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Amsterdam, after getting his Bachelors and Doctoral degrees in Chemistry, from Columbia University and Northwestern University, respectively.
Dr. Lenny Tinker, Photovoltaics Program Manager
Dr. Lenny Tinker is the program manager for the photovoltaics team. He has been at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) since September 2011 and started as an AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow on the Photovoltaics team working on Incubator Round 6. He now manages early-stage applied research and development programs at national labs, universities, and companies to develop advanced photovoltaic systems. Dr. Tinker is also the SETO representative on the IEA PVPS Executive Committee.
Prior to his position in the Energy Department, Dr. Tinker was an Alexander von Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellow at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität in Münster, Germany, where he designed inorganic complexes to be used in organic light emitting diodes and to promote triplet-triplet upconversion processes. Dr. Tinker obtained a Ph.D. in chemistry from Princeton University and a B.S. from Beloit College. His Ph.D. research focused on visible light-induced water reduction using iridium (III) chromophores and colloidal catalysts to produce a portable fuel using sunlight.
Dr. Elaine Ulrich, Senior Advisor
Dr. Elaine Ulrich is a Senior Advisor for strategy in the solar office at the U.S. Department of Energy. She formerly led the balance of systems/soft costs team that works to reduce the non-hardware (soft costs) of solar and lower barriers to U.S. solar adoption. She recently served as a Senior Advisor for Energy in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
A former American Physical Society/American Association for the Advancement of Science policy fellow and IREC “Energy Hero”, Elaine has spent the past several years working on renewable energy. She previously held positions in the office of former U.S. Senator Ken Salazar, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology, the Energy Department’s Office of Strategic Planning and Analysis, and in the office of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, where she worked to build a comprehensive solar energy portfolio.
Elaine holds a B.A. in physics from Wellesley College and a Ph.D. in optical science from the University of Arizona.
Dr. Guohui Yuan, Systems Integration Program Manager
Dr. Guohui Yuan is the program manager for the systems integration (SI) subprogram. His team supports research, development, and demonstration of technologies and solutions to enable the widespread deployment of solar energy on the nation’s electricity grid.
Dr. Yuan has been supporting SETO as a technical advisor since 2011. Previously, he held several key positions at industry-leading clean technology startups, including CURRENT Group, GridPoint, and WaveCrest Labs. Early in his career, he worked at COMSAT Labs as a systems scientist. He is a recognized thought leader and has many technical publications. He holds nine patents.
Dr. Yuan holds a B.S. degree from Tsinghua University, Beijing, China and a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland, College Park, both in physics.