New Columbia Solar, Washington, D.C.
This summer I had the privilege of interning at New Columbia Solar (NCS) in Washington, D.C. NCS is a solar developer that finances, designs, installs and maintains solar photovoltaic (PV) energy systems. I came across this internship because of my passion for renewable energy and a transition to a sustainable, low-carbon economy. Additionally, what caught my eye was its location, as D.C. is a hot spot for solar development since regulatory policy has incentivized solar in the district. My internship was with the project management team; however, the most meaningful and rewarding days came from having one-on-one discussions with members of the finance and engineering teams.
The project management team’s work is best characterized as that of mega-organizers and planners. In the company process, after finance and sales has locked in a deal, the project is handed off to the PMs to deal with regulatory permits, order the necessary parts for modules and make sure that various milestones are scheduled to be completed on time.
Over the course of the internship I became familiar with the national electric code and electrical service handbook. My focus was on conduit, the material casing that insulates electrical wires from solar panels to the utility pole. The presentation I made covered the most stringent NEC and electrical service handbook rules that govern how a solar developer like NCS can properly connect their conductors via conduit to the grid. My presentation will serve as a reference for members of the company to access if they have any questions about electrical wiring and installation requirements for solar energy systems.
Another project I worked on was making “flip the switch packets” for customers. When a PV system is complete and there is an authorization to operate, the project management team hands it off to the asset management team, the people responsible for being the point of contact for the customer over the 20-year life cycle of the system if any corrective maintenance is needed. I was required to compile all the necessary documentation for the customer, such as permits, design sets, lease agreements and certificates of insurance in one virtual data room. My favorite task was going to site visits. I observed the construction and installation processes firsthand. As a result, I gained a newfound appreciation for the complex, manual work that takes place on construction sites.
This nine-week internship experience with NCS furthered my interest in renewable energy and sustainable finance. I am fascinated by the financing behind solar projects. If it weren’t for incentives like SRECs and the investment tax credit, as well as depreciation on tax liabilities, then NCS would cease to exist. After working specifically with solar, I have learned that I want to focus my career on sustainable technologies more broadly. The future of energy will not only be solar, and that leads me to want to expand my knowledge of the green economic transition through a career in finance. Lastly, I would like to express my enormous gratitude to the ’68 Center for Career Exploration and to Bill McCalpin ’79 for their support in making this internship possible.