The Solar Apprentice

Persistence… that takes vision. Or stubbornness. Either one will work, but only vision inspires sustainable action towards a goal.

In 2017, I made the decision to pursue an electrician’s ticket - and eventually a Masters - with a focus on a career in the renewable energy sector. It took about ten years of planning though, watching and waiting as renewable energy became more economically - and politically - feasible in Alberta. In the meantime, I spent my days immersing myself in sustainability and how I could set-up a work life balance that wouldn’t be subject to the boom and bust cycle that living in Alberta has been generally known for. That’s how I met Caleb, the owner of Sunfind Solar and how I eventually joined his team last year.

It took some time to build the relationship and make the case - at least the economic one - that adding me to his team would ensure and enhance that sustainability. Realizing that a first year electrician with practically no experience is not exactly an immediate asset to a business - regardless of other complementary skills - I made the investment to complete the first 2 years of electrician theory at Red Deer College before hitting him up for a job. And that decision paid off.

Along the way, I job-shadowed the Sunfind installation crew to gain experience by doing some roof mount installs (one during the solar eclipse!), completed hours upon hours of self-study and community work, developed my own entrepreneurial venture called The Food Garage, and discovered funding available through Alberta Innovates like their Entrepreneurial Incubator and Internship programs. I felt obligated to share what I learned with the rest of the community, so I set up The Solar Apprentice page on Facebook as a low-cost blog / website and help promote the growth of renewable energy in Alberta.

When the day finally came to officially join the Sunfind Solar team in August of 2018 the sky was choked with smoke from the wildfires in British Columbia and a heat wave. Daily temperatures in the high 30’s roasted us for days as we installed this system. I felt like a ham being baked and smoked on a rooftop - not to mention the sore muscles from working on an incline. This could have been a deterrent for many newbies, but I had too much invested to give up at this point! (Plus my calves were going to look great!)

The persistence paid off though and after a few grueling days, I had my first paid rooftop solar installation completed. Shortly afterwards, we were rewarded with a two-day team building canoe trip down the Red Deer River to celebrate, and recover. Luckily, by then, we were a little more accustomed to the heat and smoke… but lots of laughs and a few canoe capsizes into the river sure helped!

Provincial rebates have helped create an opportunity for people to make Solar Power a reality in their daily life and I’m keen to guide our community to take advantage of these new funding programs. Not only for residential and commercial solar installations, but also community generation and the emergence of EVs, microgrids, and blockchain technology. We’re also pretty excited about the potential of Red Deer College’s new Alternative Energy Innovation Lab and the campus’ net-zero ambitions.

The future’s so bright…!