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Founded in 1979, Solar Oregon is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit membership organization providing public education and community outreach to encourage Oregonians to choose solar energy.
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"Volunteer Puts Passion to Work in New Solar Career"

2009 marked a transition year for Jeff Friedman. An engineering veteran in the semiconductor industry for 25 years, Friedman found himself amongst thousands of other technical jobseekers in the middle of a shrinking semiconductor capital equipment market and a slowing world economy. Fourteen months later, Friedman has been reborn as a Solar Oregon board member and an energy consultant at LiveLight Energy LLC, a full-service solar design and install company in Oregon. Solar Oregon interviews Friedman on his path to solar.

"Volunteer Puts Passion to Work in New Solar Career"

Jeff assisting with a LiveLight Energy Install

Q & A with Jeff Friedman

[Interview by Winnie Leung, Public Relations Volunteer with Solar Oregon]

2009 marked a transition year for Jeff Friedman. An engineering veteran in the semiconductor industry for 25 years, Friedman found himself amongst thousands of other technical jobseekers in the middle of a shrinking semiconductor capital equipment market and a slowing world economy. Fourteen months later, Friedman has been reborn as a Solar Oregon board member and an energy consultant at LiveLight Energy LLC, a full-service solar design and install company in Oregon. Solar Oregon interviews Friedman on his path to solar. 


What was your first encounter with solar technology?

Back in the 80s, I worked for a small incubator division of Mobil developing a method of drawing a silicon ribbon from molten silicon that was later produced into solar cells with very low efficiencies and then into 80W modules. This start-up experience, unbeknownst at the time, sparked a flame whereby now some 25 years later, a career move has positioned me smack-dab in the middle of an explosive solar movement. Through the years, I was lucky that I was able to leverage this manufacturing and processing experience in silicon and solar and use it in semiconductor manufacturing and automation to invent methods of tracking products and automating processes. In hindsight, I guess I have never been too far from solar technology. 


How did you turn a personal interest in solar into a profession?

When my run with the semiconductor industry drew to a close last year, my interest in solar and wind energy emerged front and center. I was faced with a new challenge to retrain, reestablish and network in the renewable industry. I decided solar was what I wanted to do and I sought out ways to immerse myself in solar education.

In the months you spent repositioning yourself in a renewable energy career path, any highlights that led to your success?
I was in search for education and outreach opportunities and found at Solar Oregon the perfect fit to connect with other solar enthusiasts. I attended the Residential Workshop provided by Kacia Brockman. It was a life-changing event as I was surrounded by many likeminded and intelligent individuals with a common purpose to learn about solar and become better stewards of the planet. I then joined Solar Oregon to formalize my involvement and set my sights on the installer side of the business as an industry entry point. The learning curve is steep and the flow of information is like a fire hose--the more I learned the more I realized there’s much to learn. This was  so true of my experience re-entering the solar business.

Did you land a job right after attending the Residential Workshop?
Not immediately. To be a technical contributor on the installer side of Solar, formal training is required, regulated and mandated.  I enrolled in NABCEP and TCCT training to become certified to practice, design and approve Solar PV installations in the state. In the three months following, I interacted with Solar Oregon staff, board members & local installers; became certified and attended a series of Solar Oregon events including the Green Home Tour in 2009. At one of these occasions, I met HBA (Home Builders Association) staff member Shaina Sullivan who knew Keith Knowles, owner of LiveLight Energy, and she referred me to an unpublished position with the company. I’ve been representing LiveLight for Oregon solar projects ever since.

What keeps you motivated in your work at LiveLight Energy?
Three things: Working with customers who are genuinely excited about adopting green power and making a difference. Second, my boss who has created a work opportunity that is technically challenging and extremely fun.  And last, the creative outlet. Prior to entering university, I dreamed of being an architect but chose engineering instead. At LiveLight, I get to mix engineering and architecture in my role designing rooftop solar arrays.

What are your duties as a board member of Solar Oregon?

On the logistics side I work with other board members to find ways to sustain and increase membership enrollment. On the mission side, I help Solar Oregon reach out and connect with Oregonians interested in learning about how to harness solar energy. In general, every day, wearing my Solar Oregon baseball cap, I strive to be an ambassador for the organization and recruit volunteers.

People join non-profit organizations for different reasons. Where do you find your satisfaction?
From being part of a group of sincerely dedicated individuals who share a common mission and great satisfaction—knowing that we can help many others who seek knowledge, camaraderie, or a career change as I did. 

What opportunities exist at Solar Oregon? 

Solar Oregon offers learning and networking opportunities for groups with varied interests. Our members include home and building owners who have solar; professionals just entering the renewable field; students, architects and engineers interested in solar power; as well as, educators who want to help the next generation understand the importance of solar power.

In these economic times, what advice do you have for people looking to go down the green path for a job in the solar industry?
Determine where you want to live, move there, and get involved in a non-profit that does community outreach and education. Networking is so important. Stop sending off your resume to companies with jobs on the web. Attend as many workshops as possible so staff members recognize you and know you by name, get specialized training if your position requires it and pick the segment of the market you want to work in. Select 3-4 companies in the segment you picked, learn who the president is and get to know him or her. So, when a job opens you will be the natural choice.

 
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