Community solar is a relatively new industry, yet it is benefitting from the expertise of seasoned energy market professionals. For Clean Energy Collective, this comes via Roy Palk, a 46-year industry veteran that serves as CEC’s National Energy Advisor. Roy guides CEC with strategic and market development efforts, primarily with electric cooperatives and municipal utilities, and represents CEC with those utility’s respective national associations. Nearly five decades in the energy industry gives Roy a broad view of the industry, and the valuable capability to identify key market influences and forecast what’s next.
Roy served as the chief executive for the East Kentucky Power Cooperative; worked as the assistant general manager for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA); and has held executive level positions for a myriad utilities and associations. Using his vast experience with energy and utilities, Roy advises electric utilities, trade associations, and private businesses on matters including energy production technologies, project development, strategic planning, policy, and environmental issues.
“Roy has seen more than most and he knows everyone, so we are fortunate to have him on the team,” said CEC founder and CEO, Paul Spencer. “Strong utility relationships are part of CEC’s DNA, so his perspective on utility motives and operations helps us focus on the things that best serve them.”
Roy has witnessed and influenced dramatic changes inside energy and utility providers over the years, including the ascendance of technology, automation, and equipment efficiency. He also notes the dramatic external changes, particularly with consumers. “Consumers are more aware of energy and environment issues than ever before and are now demanding more options from their utilities.”
Community solar is one of those options appealing to both consumers and utilities, a trait Roy sees as the impetus of its rapid growth. “Community solar is growing because it provides a way for those consumers who for various reasons could not have solar.” Community solar is a lower risk for utilities compared to rooftop solar and other forms of power generation. It is especially attractive for cooperative utilities, he says, because co-ops are member-owned and are responding to the demand for community solar.
As for the future of innovation, Roy believes it lies in the combination of technologies. The next big growth opportunities, he says, is combining solar and batteries for energy storage, and the synergy of wind and solar day-time/night-time energy production. He also sees innovation happening in efficiencies all along the value chain – cheaper and more efficient solar energy technologies, enhanced power grids for smarter power delivery, and rate and tariff innovation.
Why does he do it? It’s simple: pure adrenaline. “The energy industry is in some of the most exciting times ever, and it will continue to be. Change brings pain, but much needed results. CEC is endeavoring to lead that trend.”