Plan F :: I lament — Wondering if and when the Hybrid Renewable Energy Engineer job description will become a norm

Editors Note:  Reprinted with Permission.  Please check out Kimberly’s Blog for more articles like this.

Some wonder why I persist in having such a difficult time landing work as a hybrid renewable energy engineer. Perhaps if I were of the business developer, marketing, sales or policy ilk, I’d have more work than I knew what to do with. But I am an R&D anomaly and not readily embraced. So, I need to continue to try to be patient to let people catch up.

One of my colleagues/mentors, the notable, internationally recognized renewable energy sage Paul Gipe shared the following affirmation with me several weeks ago about my attempt to heighten awareness about why community wind is needed at the LCEA Clean Power, Healthy Communities Conference in Oakland, CA. My presentation is here, but sadly, there was only a single party interested in my offering during the conference. Paul emailed me the following after the conference:

Subject: hang in there/you did good

Date: October 18, 2013 7:03:09 AM PDT

To: Kimberly King <>

hang in there kimberly. you did the right thing by coming out and making a presentation before the “solar only” crowd. it needed to be done, needs to be done, and needs to be done again and again–americans are slow learners.

but of course part of the problem is that we don’t have any policies that make it possible–and until we do we’ll just be working at the margins. . .


Yes, I have been on the margins since I embarked on this reinvention to become a hybrid renewable energy engineer back in 2001. And back then, I knew distributed generation would eventually become the order of the day. Thanks to SB 43 there is a smidgen of traction, but it’s still no slam dunk. Not to mention, I have touted distributed energy in the Interests section of my LinkedIn profile when I first launched my profile back in 2005

To obtain a challenging position developing hybrid renewable energy systems using sustainable development practices. Research and engineer hybrid renewable energy power micro-grid/nano-grid systems. Research mitigating noise generated by small wind turbines in the built environment. Make contributions developing hybrid renewable distributed energy power systems toward the development of renewable energy as part of the World Wide Energy Web. Engineer renewable energy efficiency designs.

It was because of my time holding leadership roles, developing solutions to problems in unknown territory, my capabilities as a Jill-of-all-trades generalist during the dot-com in IT/Systems Engineering/Administration, that Silver Spring Networks | UH-HNEI | DoE SunShot Initiative SmartGrid PV Inverter Project picked me up last year for a short-term, six month contract as a technical writer. One of the big reasons I was selected was due to my load flow analysis embedding ten wind turbine generators on an existing electrical distribution network paper as a part of my post-graduate degree. Mind you, this SunShot Initiative project is the cornerstone, benchmark communications protocol project for the USA for embedding a high-penetration of residential PV inverters on existing electrical distribution networks. This pilot’s aims are to discern how well the bi-directional flow of electrons from renewable energy generators can be managed by a utility. Most of the people I worked with on this project are ex-Cisco engineers, and found me to be a natural for this job. The reference letter from my supervisor is viewable here.

I was also in the queue for consideration under the Fraunhofer Institute/Sandia National Labs Micro-grid/Nano-grid project collaboration that was tabled indefinitely late last year. And just a couple of months ago, I was in the queue to work on Chevron Energy Solutions/Chevron Renewable Power Division as a Investment Structuring Analyst/Associate for PV and geothermal plants, but these projects were placed on hold indefinitely as a result of the government shutdown.

Unfortunately, as time progresses, I feel more and more like hedged my bets incorrectly–thinking by now the renewable energy industry would have adopted the mindset that was pervasive during the dot-com to seek agile, adaptable engineers who are agitators, and who can wear more than one hat to get a job completed. Instead, this myopic vision I have come to witness over the past eight years seems to be the order of the day. This is out of my control. And so, I continue to be relegated to the margins/fringes. I am all for contingency planning. Sure always having a Plan B or Plan C makes sense, but I NEVER fathomed I’d need a Plan F. Let’s see how this all came about…

Plan A – Starting in 2001, I volunteered at the Resource Renewable Institute, to learn more about this operatives renewable energy and sustainable development. I also performed due diligence for The Rahus Institute on why more PV systems were not being installed on K-12 schools in California. From 2004-2010, pursued academic coursework at a veritable plethora of universities in the USA, The Netherlands and the UK. I also completed PV Design and Installation coursework with Solar Energy International and at Diablo Valley College. For a year, I helped design and install solar PV systems on residences.  Eventually completed a post-graduate degree in renewable energy systems technology engineering in 2010 at the Centre for Renewable Energy Systems Technology (CREST) a part of Loughborough University in the Midlands of the UK.

Plan B – Due to the tumultuous, global financial climate in 2008, started having to fall back on my technical writing, computer science skills set–just like a number of my seasoned, professional CREST classmates had to do. Made the short list a number of times for a number of jobs–I lost count awhile ago. Chemistry. However, it’s an employers’ market and one has to meet 100% of the job description ‘check-box’ criteria, and getting past the HR ‘gate keepers’ these past few years has been inordinately challenging.

Plan C - Started falling back on my chef skills as an Eco-chef; swapping my services for short-term housing, if pay was an issue.

Plan D – Dog sitting, House sitting to make trickle-in survival income while waiting for contractual engineering work to be finalized. These contracts never materialized.

Plan E – Joined the SF Local 16 to obtain part-time freelance work in audio and visual realm, in an effort to get off the ‘food stamp diet.’

Plan F - My present aim is to secure a certificate in Industrial Maintenance [welding, machining, hydraulics] at Laney College, because our first world nation with a third world infrastructure is going to break HARD, and it will require having more talent who not only knows how to design, but also knows how to fix and tune, on-the-fly in the field.

I have some appointments coming up in December to chat with a CPUC [California Public Utilities Commissioner] to discuss why there persists in being consternation with supplier diversity issues. Also, more recently, a finance director at Chevron Energy Solutions has expressed some interest in hearing my ideas on how Chevron might participate in SB 43.

I am no Nikola Tesla, but I certainly have a great deal of empathy for the man, his vision and all the ‘brick walls’ he had to traverse to even get his ideas and designs embraced. Sadly, he was impoverished and in debt when he passed away. Alas…

To quote Randy Pausch,

Don’t ball. The best of the gold’s at the bottom of barrels of crap.

I sure hope so, because I’m borderline vanquished.