Geographers make a difference in solar

Article by Lindsey Guinther, Director of GIS at Lightsource bp, USA: 

As geographers in renewable energy, every map we make can literally help save the world; each megawatt of clean power we site is a step forward in the fight against climate change.  In light of National Geography Awareness week, I want to celebrate the impact of geographic problem solving in solar and shine a light on the brilliant opportunities this industry holds for my fellow geographers and GIS practitioners.

Like many of my peers, I entered the field of geography wanting to make a difference.  I intended to work as a hazards geographer, helping protect people from catastrophes like Hurricane Katrina. After my master’s program, I completed an emergency management internship and realized it wasn’t right for me.

Searching for a better fit, I applied for positions in renewable energy. Although it was not where I thought I would have landed, it aligned well with my personal goal of leveraging my education to have a positive impact on the world. Thirteen years later, I’m working as a senior development/GIS manager at Lightsource bp, where I lead a team of GIS professionals supporting the company’s ambitious goals to develop 25GW of solar energy by 2025.

 I found that my background in hazards and GIS has lent itself well to working in renewables. The intersection between natural hazard exposure research, site optimization that mitigates natural hazard risk and collaboration with multiple partners to reach a final design that can obtain insurance coverage is how it’s all come together for me.

Being able to leverage such a powerful problem-solving tool daily to make an impact is rewarding technically, but the impact we are making is even more fulfilling.  Knowing that I’ve sited ~2.5GW of clean power infrastructure so far in my career, abating millions of tons of atmospheric carbon emissions, helps me sleep at night.  While the volume of megawatts is what helps me sleep at night, it’s the daily work that results in resilient and sustainable solar projects that gets me out of bed in the morning.

I want every professional geographer, whether they’re just starting out or a seasoned specialist, to love their job as much as I do.  I also want our industry to build as much wind and solar as possible. So I encourage every GIS professional who wants to make a difference to consider a career in solar and explore their very real potential to make a tangible contribution to decarbonization.

Lindsey Guinther first published this article on LinkedIn in during Geography Awareness Week 2021. To leave a comment or question, please view the original post here.

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