To celebrate International Women’s Day 2019, we’ve compiled a list of seven leading women in solar energy from the UK and India. Whether academics or entrepreneurs, they are all using their expertise to make a positive impact on the climate and bring solar technology to communities who would benefit from it the most.
1. Professor Jenny Nelson
Professor Jenny Nelson is one of the co-investigators for SUNRISE. A Professor of Physics at Imperial College London, she has been conducting research into organic solar cells since 1989. Her areas of expertise include molecular semiconductor materials, and the mitigation potential of photovoltaic technology. Since 2010, Nelson has worked with the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial, which pushes world-class research, training, and innovation toward effective action on climate change.
2. Ajaita Shah
Ajaita Shah is the founder and CEO of Frontier Markets, a last-mile distribution company for clean energy that sells reliable, renewable products to those living off-grid in rural India. The company has trained up local women to form a network of solar entrepreneurs whose role is to convince their rural neighbours to invest in solar. Frontier Markets’ mission is to create ‘Saral Jeevan’ or an ‘Easy Life’ for rural customers by employing solar technology to take advantage of the consistent sunlight in many areas of India. Shah herself has 12 years of expereince in microfinance and clean energy distribution, and has received several awards in recognition of her hard work, including Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneur (2014) and Business Week’s Women Entrepreneur of the Year (2016).
3. Dr Clementine Chambon
Dr Clementine Chambon obtained her PhD in bioenergy from Imperial College London, and currently undertakes post-doctroal research in Chemical Engineering there. Her research interests lie in optimising decentralised energy technologies to reach energy-deprived communities, and in 2016 she co-founded a for-profit company to do just that. Oorja Solutions, for whom Chambon is also CTO, design and install solar-powered mini-grids and solar pumps in rural India. In 2016, Chambon was honoured as a Forbes 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneur and an MIT Innovators Under 35.
4. Professor Nicola Pearsall
Professor Nicola Pearsall is based at the Department of Physics and Electrical Engineering at Northumbria University, where she is a professor of renewable energy specialising in photovoltaics. She leads the Northumbria Photovoltaics Applications Group, and has over 25 years of experience in thin film solar cell development and PV systems. Pearsall has also worked with EUREC Agency, European Photovoltaic Technology Platform, and the Solar Europe Industry Initiative to develop PV research within Europe, and worked with the STAPP project (Stability and Performance of Photovoltaics) to assess the potential of photovoltaics within the UK and India.
5. Meagan Fallone
Meagan Fallone is CEO of Barefoot College and the Founder & Director of Barefoot College International. Barefoot College aims to enable sustainable change from the ground up, and so far has reached 96 countries across the planet. They train women as solar engineers, innovators, and educators, who then take what they have learnt back to their communities. Fallone was chosen as the 2018 Hillary Laureate for her extraordinary leadership and efforts to address climate change and social injustice.
6. Dr Mini Govindan
Dr Mini Govindan has a PhD in Development Studies from the Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC), Bangalore, and has over 14 years of experience as a social and gender expert within projects related to energy, climate change, and sustainable development. She is a Fellow of The Energy and Resources Insitute (TERI) and a partner in EFEWEE (Exploring Factors that Enhance and restrict Women’s Empowerment through Electrification), where she is responsible for the surveying and empirical aspects of the Indian case study.
7. Neha Misra
Neha Misra is the Co-Founder and Chief Collaboration Officer of Solar Sister, a company that recruits, trains, and supports women entrepreneurs in off-grid Africa to bring clean energy to their neighbourhoods. Solar Sister supplies these women with solar-powered products, who then earn an income by selling them on to people without power and benefitting the whole community. Misra holds a Master of Business Economics Degree from the University of Delhi and a BSc in Physics from St. Stephens College, India. She also has a certificate in design of solar energy systems from Solar Energy International in Carbondale, Colorado.