Presenting "People Powered"
Direct Current, a Department of Energy podcast, is proud to present People Powered, a new series on the real stories of the folks getting their paychecks in the energy sector. There are millions of good-paying jobs in clean energy, and you’ll get a chance to meet some of the people who have jumped into these fast-growing careers.
In People Powered, we’ll share what clean energy jobs are, the training required, useful info like salary and benefits, and the stories behind the people we talk to about their career pathways — and the surprising twists, turns, and leaps that they make along the way. Stay tuned for more episodes!
Meet Kaly Moore
For Kaly Moore, solar energy is the career she needed to lift herself out of poverty and kickstart her future. In this episode, we sat down with the Denver-born construction manager for New Columbia Solar in D.C. to chat about why she loves working in solar, how it has helped stabilize and revolutionize her life, and how it feels to make a positive impact on her community every day.
Kaly started out her career with Grid Alternatives, supporting job training and solar installations with low-income communities. That work led her to the East Coast, where she’s moved from an installer role to managing large solar projects with New Columbia Solar, while training to become a volunteer firefighter on the side!
Solar Careers: By the Numbers
A Bright Future: How to Join the Solar Revolution
Today, more than 200,000 people make up the solar energy workforce. At the Department of Energy, we want to see these figures keep rising. Our Solar Energy Technologies Office is dedicated to helping job seekers find the opportunities they need to propel them into a solar career.
Whether you want to learn more about training programs, fellowships and research projects, or just want to explore what resources are available, our Solar Workforce Development website has everything you need to turn your dream of becoming part of the solar energy field into a reality.
Curious about a solar job? Are you a student who wants to give some hands-on experience in solar a try before you enter the workforce? Don’t miss our website STEM Rising, the Department of Energy’s collection of all-things-science, tech, engineering, and math from K-workforce levels at our agency.
At energy.gov/STEM, you’ll see resources like a Solar Career Map, where you can look at pathways between three dozen solar job types across fields like production, design, sales, marketing, business, and installation.
You'll also get connected to the Solar Decathlon, our collegiate competition that has inspired thousands of students worldwide to enter the clean energy workforce since its inception in 2002. The event challenges students to design and build high-performance, low-carbon buildings that mitigate climate change and improve our quality of life through greater affordability, resilience, and energy efficiency. The program has expanded to Europe, China, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East to involve hundreds more teams and more than 19,000 participants.
STEM Rising also shares EERE’s Energy Storage Summer Internships program, which delivers a 10 week-long internship placement working on battery storage issues at our national labs, and the Solar District Cup, a challenge run by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory for multidisciplinary student teams to design and model energy distribution systems for a campus or urban district. Subscribe to our monthly STEM Rising newsletter to keep in touch, and you can follow #STEMRising on social media for other STEM program news.
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SECRETARY JENNIFER GRANHOLM: Jobs, jobs, jobs. Hi folks, it's Jennifer Granholm. As the Secretary of Energy, that’s the word I’ve probably said the most often as a member of President Biden’s Cabinet. "Jobs, jobs, jobs" is our mantra here at the Energy Department as we deliver on President Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda — that’s climate action, energy justice, and a net-zero future for the American people. So, what are these clean energy jobs? Who does them? How were they trained? What kind of salary and benefits are we talking about here? Get the details and the stories of the people who are powering the clean energy sector – and America. We’re launching our new "People Powered series" to shed light on the enormous benefits in store for all kinds of people in all pockets of the country who join the clean energy workforce. What drives Americans to pursue clean energy careers? What does a day look like as a wind turbine inspector, or a weatherization auditor, or a communications professional, or an energy sales rep? It’s impossible to not get inspired by their stories, and their passion, and their surprising pathways to working in clean energy. We’re diving deep with people who are working to deliver your electricity, weatherize your home, and protect your energy grid, and put smart, clean energy policy on the books. You're going to hear their voices, you're going to hear their stories, you'll hear their backgrounds, and their inspiration. It’s all here in our "People Powered" series on Direct Current - An Energy.gov Podcast.
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MATT DOZIER: Hello and welcome to another episode of Direct Current – An Energy.gov Podcast. I’m your host, Matt Dozier, and as you just heard from Secretary Granholm, we have something very special for you today. This is the first episode in our brand-new series on careers in clean energy. We’re calling it “People Powered,” and we’re going to introduce you to some remarkable folks doing the work that’s driving our clean energy revolution — sometimes in surprising ways. You’ll hear about their jobs, their lives, and their advice on pursuing a career in energy. We hope you find their stories eye-opening, inspiring — and maybe even motivating. In this episode, I sat down with Kaly Moore, who found a path out of poverty in solar, one of the fastest-growing sectors of the energy economy. We spoke about her journey, her passion for lifting up her community, and the ins and outs of big solar construction projects. All that and more, coming up.
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KALY MOORE: My name's Kaly Moore. I'm a construction manager with New Columbia Solar. And yeah, I live here in the District of Columbia.
MATT DOZIER: Tell me, if you could, a little about yourself. Where you live, where you're from, family, that sort of thing.
KALY MOORE: Yeah, I'm born and raised in Denver, Colorado, actually. I moved to California when I was about 16, and that's where I got into the solar industry when I was 19. Stayed out there for a number of years, and that industry actually brought me out here to the nation's capital.
MATT DOZIER: What were you doing in California before you came out east?
KALY MOORE: I was working with a nonprofit organization called Grid Alternatives. And they actually provide job training and renewable energy technology for, right now, solar to moderate- to low-income communities or marginalized communities. And so I started with them. And they opened a DC office and were doing commercial work. And so at the time, I was doing residential work in California with Grid. And I said, “Hey, you know, I've kind of plateaued in my career, I'm looking elevate that,” and DC was it. So, I've been out here, now, going on five years, so that's kind of like on the career side, and then outside of work for the most part right now, just in school for volunteer firefighting. Not a ton of social life, but you know, doing the good work.
MATT DOZIER: It's got to be tough when you've got that many commitments. I'm sure volunteer firefighting school takes up a good amount of time, as well.
KALY MOORE: It definitely does. Yes. So I've got about a month and half left, and then I'll be certified in Maryland and nationally.
MATT DOZIER: Tell me about your job. How would you explain it to somebody who doesn't know what you do, you know, family or friends.
KALY MOORE: A lot of my job right now, as a manager, you know, primarily is just managing the operations in terms of how things get to the field, you know, managing those relationships in the field, making sure that our client’s happy. You know, whether that's a school, whether that's an owner, or an apartment complex, whether that's a homeowner — whoever that that point of contact might be — making sure that we get equipment procured. So I work with our different teams and the company. You know, we have engineering department, we have the procurement department, and then we just have like the general warehouse. So a lot of my job is kind of being the conduit between those departments and making sure that we're having the conversation before we mobilize and then getting everything to the job site, which would be a mobilization day. And then for however long the project is, I'm visiting the site once a day, for however long, how much ever attention the project might need. And I'm looking at the quality of the system and making sure that it's going in per plan, per code, so that once we’re saying, “Hey, this is good to go," we can flip the switch and the inspector comes out, that we're doing everything we're supposed to do. And I wouldn't say that everybody does this, but I personally, you know, really like to — just because I come from the background of an installer, I was on the roof for six years — so I like to pass on that knowledge. In California I definitely learned a lot about solar in ways that they don't totally know out here, just because it's still pretty new to the East Coast in terms of installation. And so we're kind of able to provide some like good best practices, and I love sharing that with people in the field, just helping train them and help them perform more efficiently and just produce good quality work.
MATT DOZIER: So are you still getting up on the roof fairly often, then?
KALY MOORE: Yeah, I get up on the roof every day. By any means necessary. Yeah. So might be a ladder, might be a stairwell, might be an elevator if we're lucky. But yes, I go from the warehouse. Sometimes I work from home. Sometimes I'm running to a different warehouse to pick up some equipment from, say, Capital Electric. And sometimes I'm on the roof, you know, looking around the city and and seeing what's going on.
MATT DOZIER: I was going to ask you to describe a typical day. I think you've kind of done that. What does a mobilization day look like for you?
KALY MOORE: Oh, that's a great question. Mobilizations are, those are the big days, right? There's, there's a lot leading up to that day. You want to make sure you got all your ducks in a row, as they say. We're getting all the equipment together, and then we have that day to get everything right. So we've set our crane up most likely, we've got like four or five trucks coming in, we're picking that equipment off of the truck with the crane, we're setting on the roof. So that involves a lot of permits, a lot of road closure, a lot of coordination with the city and with, with neighbors around the project, making sure that they know “Hey, we're about to come in, you know, are we going to interfere with anything that you might have going on?” It's not just the client, it is your neighborhood. Then once you're there, yeah, it's just a lot of again just managing expectations and managing relationships. So whether it's the crew that I have on site, it's the neighbors, it's the client, it's keeping everybody happy, is kind of my main role. And then providing, you know, all of the paperwork and details to the contractor on site. And so we're, you know, managing safety, we've got our safety up first, you get everybody up on the roof, and then we start receiving material, we go through the material, between me and somebody from the crew, and just make sure hey, this is what you're supposed to have on site, let's verify it's here. And then if anything's missing, we know. And usually to mobilize a project it takes the whole day, and you know, we usually end up doing it on the weekend, just to have the least amount of disturbance to wherever we're installing, for the neighbors and for typically like a school or something.
MATT DOZIER: Yeah, what size projects are we talking, typically? Is it pretty wide range or, you know, mostly larger or smaller?
KALY MOORE: New Columbia, we are doing incredible work in terms of scale, the smallest project, so I started with the company about a month, a little over a month ago, and the smallest project I've come across my plate is 170 kilowatt. And so kilowatt being 1000. So 170,000 watts of solar potential, all the way up to we have a couple projects coming down the pipeline that are in megawatts. So it's, we've got a very wide range, there was a smaller 30 panel system, so you're, you know, you're looking around like 20 kilowatts or so. So we don't typically install in smaller range as a company, but definitely a lot of bigger systems, commercial-size systems.
MATT DOZIER: Let's talk about your path into solar. How did you get into this industry?
KALY MOORE: I love talking about this. I, you know, to be honest with you, didn't grow up in the most stable home, both financially and physically. And I was the first in my family to graduate high school. And upon graduation, I thought I was gonna go into the military, that that was gonna be my long term career goal. Just because we didn't really talk about future in my household. And so there wasn't, you know, I didn't really have a mentor, somebody looking out for me saying, “Hey, you know, I think this would be a good idea.” I went to enlist, and I had braces. And the Army said no. And I said, "Okay, well, I'll come back to you when I get them off." And I ended up having braces for seven years. So but then I joined the — I went to college for about a month, community college, View College back in Chico, California. And I realized, "Hey, I don't I don't know what I'm doing here. And I'm wasting my time and the professor's time. And that's not fair. And another student could be sitting here that really wants to be here." So then I said, well, I'm working at Arby's — I was working there from 15 until I was 18 — and I said to myself, I want a better future than what I've grown up around, and I want financial stability. I want to have some kind of skill set. I don't know what it is, but something that's going to move me forward in life and give me some kind of footwork. And so I started with the California Conservation Corps. And while I was there a couple months in there was a few presenters that came from Grid Alternatives. And they said, "Hey, we've got a year long fellowship, it's through AmeriCorps. You don't have to have any skills, you just have to be eager and willing and show up on time essentially, and we'll put you on the roof and we'll train you." And I said, "That's it." And for me, it had nothing to do with renewable energy. I had nothing to do climate change, I actually knew nothing about that at the time. It was I'm trying to help my mom pay bills and put food on the table and I'm trying to propel myself forward. And I said great, you're gonna pay me for a year, and I have steady income and I’m getting a solid skill. I love it. Three months in I realized, holy snap, I'm in love with this organization. I'm in love with their mission and, wow, solar is incredible and we can do incredible things with this technology. And that really changed my life forever. And here we are about nine years later and still in the industry — well, came back to the industry. I went to general construction for a little bit. And yeah, it's completely revolutionized my life and given me an opportunity to get out of survival mode, and stop thinking just day to day, paycheck to paycheck, and really start thinking about a future and thinking outside of myself and how I can give back.
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MATT DOZIER: Coming up after the break, how Kaly’s job in solar changed her life, and her advice for others looking to get into the field. Right after this.
ANNEMARIE HOROWITZ: Today, more than 200,000 people make up the solar energy workforce. At the Department of Energy, we want to see these figures keep rising. Our Solar Energy Technologies Office – which is part of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) – is dedicated to helping job seekers find the opportunities they need to propel them into a solar career. Whether you want to learn more about training programs, fellowships and research projects, or just want to explore what resources are available, they have everything you need to turn your dream of becoming part of the solar energy field into a reality. Catch their resources at our STEM Rising website, energy.gov/stem.
MATT DOZIER: What specifically do you like about your job?
KALY MOORE: Wow. I love so much about my job.
MATT DOZIER: Big question, I guess.
Kaly Moore: I really do, I really do love so much about my job. I'd say in my current role, my favorite part, or the part that I enjoy the most, is working in the Chocolate City. And knowing that though, you know, we need more representation throughout the industry as a whole, whether that's by BIPOC communities, whether that's women, whether that's, you know, more gender fluid, just kind of anything outside of cis white male, you know, yes, we need to see more there, however, we are still installing renewable energy at a mass scale in the District of Columbia. And, you know, that's def is foreshadowing not only for the country, as we are in Washington as capital, but also here in the District of Columbia and the Chocolate City to say, you know, hey, you're a part of this movement. And, you know, as a nation, we, you know, we can't do without you. And so I love that. it's both a privilege and an incredible opportunity to work here in this city and to bring this training, to bring this technology, to bring the skills that I have to the table, and to help people keep the lights on.
MATT DOZIER: You said that when you kind of first got your fellowship, that climate change, renewable energy, all those things weren't at the top of mind at all. What was that education process like? And you know, how does it factor into your thinking these days?
KALY MOORE: That's a great question. Yeah, it wasn't — like I said, it just was like, I need a paycheck. And climate change was not something that I was able to really think about. So in terms of education, what I went in with, you know, I knew a little bit about construction — not a whole ton, my dad's a landscaper. So I worked with him some using power tools and heavy equipment. But outside of that, I'd never been on a rooftop unless it was hanging out on a rooftop, which is not the same as working on one. I'd never touched a solar panel, I'd never made holes in a roof before, I'd never worked inside a main service panel, never worked with electricity before. Except, you know, sticking a battery to my tongue when I was a three-year-old, but that's a little different.
MATT DOZIER: (LAUGHS)
KALY MOORE: So in terms of skills, they're really — at an entry level position, it is truly entry level, it really just comes down to are you willing, and are you able? Of course you need to be able to move around, you need to be able to climb ladders, you need to be able to lift 50 pounds or so. Outside of that, I mean... when I worked with Grid Alternatives, we took anyone ages 16 and up. And I worked with people who had never touched a screwdriver in their life to master electricians and beyond. And every single one of those individuals would come to the job and leave knowing that they had accomplished a successful install, and that they had a hand in it.
MATT DOZIER: If you could talk a little bit more about how your life is different now than it was when you first got into this industry and what effects it's had on your life over that time.
KALY MOORE: Hm. I mean, it brought me to the nation's capital. It got me out of poverty, it gave me an outlook for something beyond, like I said, the day-to-day survival mode, I was able to really start planning for a future which, for me a future was can I make it next week? Can I make it next month? And now I'm able to think a couple years out for myself, which is still a little overwhelming. However, it's possible. I know that the industry is here and not going anywhere. So I know that I have job security. And, unfortunately, climate change is evident and ongoing. And that also provides job security in a way that we don't necessarily want; however, it's there. And so for me, (SIGHS) I mean, it's given me the opportunity to, yeah, just think beyond what am I going to eat today? And can I can I pay these bills and keep the lights on? To I don't have to be concerned about bills and I can instead think about my future and and what I want to do with this career and how I can take what I've been given and think about how I can give that back to others. And that is I mean it's revolutionary. My family fought every day about finances. And I, since being in this industry, at least a few years, then because of course, you start at the bottom tier, but after a little while, when you start making more, and you make your name in the industry, you don't have to worry about those things. Yeah.
MATT DOZIER: So you think you'll stick with it as a lifelong career or, you know, a career for the foreseeable future, at least?
KALY MOORE: Definitely the foreseeable future. I would really like to see myself transition into — I could see myself becoming a trainer here in the district, you know, potentially working with the infrastructure academy, or organizations like Grid Alternatives or, you know, partnering with them, whatever that might look like a couple years down the line. Just because I think, you know, I think that's really where my heart's at. I love physically being on the on the roof, but I really care a lot about the representation in the industry. And, you know, I'm very aware of the fact that I'm, you know, a transient white individual, regardless of how I identify in other capacities. And that, you know, it's a huge privilege to be working here in the city and the district, and that, you know, you know I want to take the opportunity to pass it on. And in the very long haul, I see myself moving into emergency disaster response management. And solar is obviously going to be a key player in that and how we combat climate change. And I think it's essential that the people on top making the calls, understand what it's like to be boots on the roof.
MATT DOZIER: Absolutely. Advice for somebody who's interested in getting into a career in solar, maybe doesn't have a ton of education or experience in the field and would like to follow a similar path as to the one that you did?
KALY MOORE: It's really going to depend on where you live, because solar isn't everywhere like it needs to be. The policy isn't quite there. So, I would say it's definitely what type of work does the individual want to do? Because as you said when we started this interview, is you know, I, started as an installer on the construction side, however, there are many, many different arms to the industry. Maybe you're sales, maybe you're procurement, maybe you're manufacturing, maybe you're the engineer. There's so many roles that keep this moving forward. I would say, as an installer and speaking from that perspective, the best way to get involved: look if there's local training. If you don't have local training, look if there's a smaller company, or even a larger company in your area that has entry level positions. And just apply and get some good clothing. Get some pants that you're willing to get dirty, get some shoes that you're willing to get dirty, and just know you can do it. Know that it's gonna be challenging, know that it's gonna be new. But to me, in this industry, with with what I've seen, where I've worked, I don't see any entry-level barriers other than access. And so if you have the access in terms of if the jobs are in your area, if the training's in your area, seek it out. I just overall, I've seen so many walks of life do this work and come together — all the way from White House executives all the way to you know, grassroots, the homeowner, the individual on the ground, and I've seen all those individuals begin and successfully complete an install. So if you're interested, know that you can do it and it really is just a matter of getting your foot in the door.
MATT DOZIER: Kaly Moore. Thank you so much for joining me.
KALY MOORE: Yeah, thank you, Matt.
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MATT DOZIER: That’s all for this episode of Direct Current. We have tons of great stories coming your way in our People Powered series, so stay tuned for more. You can find all our episodes at energy.gov/podcast, or subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. Thank you to my guest, Kaly Moore, and the folks at New Columbia Solar. AnneMarie Horowitz, Ashley Books, and our intern, Mikayla Tillery, contributed to this episode. Direct Current is produced by me, Matt Dozier. Sarah Harman creates original artwork for all of our episodes. This is a production of the U.S. Department of Energy and published from our nation’s capital in Washington, D.C. See you next time!
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