While the cleantech sector is very much a boy’s club, women are starting to break down the clubhouse door. Meet 12 of the most savvy and accomplished interlopers. Some are building their own start-ups, others are climbing the ranks in big companies, still others are plowing millions into new clean-energy endeavors via venture-capital firms. All of them, we hope, will inspire more women to get involved and take charge in industries that are changing how we power our lives, how we get around, and ultimately how we cope in a climate-changed world.
Twelve thousand American homes now have solar panels thanks to 31-year-old Lynn Jurich, and she’s set her sights on millions more. In her 20s, during summer hiatus from Stanford business school, Jurich went to China to work at a bank and found “the air so polluted that I couldn’t see the sun.” It struck her then that “energy is the greatest problem my generation has to solve.” She returned to the states to join a biz-school cohort in founding SunRun, a start-up with a deliciously simple premise: more people would switch to solar if it were easy. SunRun does all the hard stuff — it selects, buys, installs, and services each of its PV systems, and muddles through the complexities of permitting, net-metering, and tax credits. All a homeowner has to do is provide a rooftop for the installation and sign a fixed-price, long-term contract to purchase the carbon-free electricity the panels produce. Four years after it was founded, SunRun now commands 10 percent of the residential solar market and operates in nine states. The company, which installs $1 million worth of solar equipment each day, grew 300 percent in 2010 and is poised for similar growth this year.