Skip Navigation

Anna Brockway

SunShot Fellow aids in the expansion of accessible solar energy for underrepresented groups

Since 2010, the average cost of a solar electric system has dropped by more than 70 percent, and the amount of solar energy installed in the U.S. has grown by more than 500 percent. Anna Brockway, a participant in the SunShot Fellowship within the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office, plays an integral role in advancing the use of solar energy, especially for underrepresented groups.

"I believe that clean, renewable energy should be accessible to everyone regardless of their income level, home ownership status, and geographic residence," Brockway said. "Solar panels generate energy from free fuel – we just need more innovative models of deploying solar to overcome market barriers."

Anna Brockway

Anna Brockway, a SunShot fellow, stands next to solar energy panels at a DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office volunteer project for a low-income solar installation. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Boff, U.S. DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office Contractor)

The SunShot Initiative was established by DOE in February 2011 and seeks to do just that – make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of electricity through research, manufacturing, and market solutions, by the year 2020. Administered through the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, which is managed for DOE by ORAU, SunShot fellowships provide an opportunity for recent graduates, scientists, engineers and researchers to lead and improve projects to meet this solar energy goal.

Graduating with a bachelor of science degree in chemistry from Haverford College, Brockway joined the SunShot program in January 2013 and will continue through May 2015. While completing her undergraduate degree, she conducted chemistry research on technologies related to energy and sustainability. She found she was passionate about renewable energy and wanted to learn more about where she could make the most impact in the field before starting graduate school.

Her primary focus within SunShot is on innovative business models that can expand access to solar for groups underserved by traditional solar deployment strategies that rely on home ownership or taxable income. Creative business models can benefit entities such as renters, low-income residents, multi-unit building tenants and management companies, community organizations, farm owners and non-profit entities.

"Business models that enable community-oriented solar deployment, such as solar on multi-unit buildings, shared solar arrays, and crowd-funded projects can empower all of these groups to choose solar, which is our ultimate goal," she explained.

Brockway's effort to expand solar access for underserved entities has taken several different avenues. She organized a workshop to bring together stakeholders from the solar industry, utilities, nonprofit and community organizations, and the legal and finance fields to identify opportunities and challenges for scaling community solar models. Brockway also contributed information for DOE officials to enable incorporation of community-oriented business model programs into funding opportunities for solar business development and deployment, and participated in high-level discussions across several federal agencies about market opportunities and remaining barriers.

Brockway also serves as SunShot's point-of-contact for community-oriented solar energy business models. She supported the development and negotiation process for a $15 million DOE solar funding program targeting the holistic integration of solar energy into regional, state, local, utility, and university comprehensive plans. Also previously at SunShot, she co-led a multi-stakeholder effort to develop solar forecasting metrics, oversaw the creation of the 2014 SunShot Initiative Portfolio Book, and contributed to the development of an $8 million federal funding opportunity which targeted a deeper understanding of the chemical and physical reliability of solar system components.

In the near future, Brockway is planning to enter a graduate program where she can study the grid interconnection, technical barriers, policy considerations and impact of increasing renewable energy on the electric grid. Her ultimate goal is to contribute to the accessible, reliable and cost-effective expansion of renewable energy throughout the U.S.

For Brockway, the SunShot Fellowship is an important step in preparing for her future career. "Because I have been a part of the DOE SunShot Initiative, I've learned about the opportunities and remaining challenges for renewable energy in the U.S., the federal funding process, and the 'big picture' priorities for supporting clean energy innovation and local economic development," she said. "It has been a wonderful experience, and I would recommend it to anyone who is passionate about renewable energy, dedicated to learning more, prepared to innovate and excited to make a difference."