“The doors of the energy future are open,” emphasizes Theresa Eaton, the new chief executive officer (CEO) of WECS Renewables, a midsize utility-scale distributor for renewable energy parts. The company itself has opened doors to increase diverse participation within the organization. From specialized, technical salespeople focused on solar and wind farm development, to electrical engineers helping to solve some of the biggest problems in the industry, to encouraging more women in the industry – as evidenced by Eaton’s new role – WECS Renewables is driving innovation and change in the industry both in the field and in the boardroom.
The recent decision to bring on Eaton as CEO is a move that cemented the company’s stronghold in the renewable energy sector. She is one of the only female CEOs of a renewable energy company in the United States. Eaton is passionate about growing WECS Renewables as a leader in the industry and also about the company’s industry mission. The vision is one focused on creating more American jobs in the clean energy sector, where sustainable, clean energy job opportunities are actively recruiting women and people from diverse backgrounds to all aspects of the industry.
Attracting diverse talent to the renewable industry does not happen overnight or by its own accord. Nearly 61 percent of U.S. clean energy workers are white and non-Hispanic, less than 30 percent are women, and only eight percent are African American. WECS’s CEO, Eaton, strives to bolster diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the renewable energy sector by leading by example within her own company. “We are a woman-run organization and the majority of our team at WECS comes from diverse backgrounds, which creates a strong culture with varying perspectives. Our diversity helps us to best serve our customers and execute our business.”
Eaton is also taking innovative and forward-thinking approaches to help other renewable energy leaders diversify their workforce. Recently elected as a board member to the American Clean Power (ACP) board, Eaton and WECS Renewables are helping ACP coordinate efforts with companies across the United States to form partnerships with organizations supporting diverse recruitment and training programs. They are deploying resources to accelerate these workforce development initiatives, in order to attract top talent into the clean energy industry.
Eaton’s work does not stop there. She pushes beyond the realm of her company, forming strategic partnerships to make the participation in the renewable energy workforce more expansive and to create more American jobs in the clean power sector. WECS Renewables has a partnership with the Center for Renewable Energy Advanced Technological Education (CREATEenergy.org). Solar and wind technicians are two of the nation’s top five growing jobs, yet there are not enough skilled workers in the U.S. currently to fulfill the demand. As a member of CREATE’s National Visiting Committee, Eaton works closely with CREATE, which helps train teachers at two-year technical colleges as they implement renewable energy education programs and certificates in wind and solar. CREATE has trained over 900 faculty members to equip educators to train students for careers in wind and solar across the United States. This partnership gives teachers access to professional development resources and mentorships that will help prepare younger generations to enter the growing field. Eaton recognizes that there are many pathways into renewable energy. The work with CREATE helps enable affordable higher-level education in communities that may otherwise lack the resources and training, and prepares them for careers in renewable energy. Learn more here: WECS IN THE COMMUNITY (wecsrenewables.com)
Eaton is a multifaceted problem-solver. Beyond her impressive leadership in renewable energy, she is a woman and a mother who recognizes that every action she makes is one that may have a lasting impact on future generations.
“I have two sisters who are also in STEM careers,” Eaton explains, “and an eight year old daughter. So, it is important to help her understand that there are all types of great careers out there.” This is why Eaton is excited about being featured in the upcoming children’s book, Everyday Superheroes: Women in Energy Careers, scheduled for release from WiseInk on July 25, 2022. This nonfiction children’s book shares the stories, careers and superpowers of thirty-four Energy Superheroes – women like Eaton – who are leading the energy transition. Eaton’s superpower is problem-solving and she hopes to inspire the next generation of the energy workforce by sharing her story with readers. This book provides real-life examples of the opportunities for future careers in energy, from technicians to scientists in our national labs. By sharing these stories with kids, Eaton hopes to be a role model to inspire a more talented and diverse renewable energy workforce.
Superhero: Theresa Eaton
Theresa Eaton is the CEO of WECS Renewables. Eaton and her team are working to solve a big problem in renewable energy: heavy parts that often overheat and break down. Using her problem-solving superpower, she and her team help design new parts that weigh less, last longer, and break down less often. For example, the pistons used in wind turbines are often heavy and clunky, and they wear out fast. Pistons are very important, as they help control the direction of the wind turbine. WECS Renewables created a “super piston” that is 500 percent lighter and self-greasing, so it lasts much longer. Thanks to Eaton and her company, technicians can now climb to the top of a wind turbine and repair or replace pistons more easily. As the mother of a young scientist, Eaton advises young people to read and be curious. Theresa is working to bring clean power to the grid through her new role on the Board of Directors for the American Clean Power Association. She loves rock climbing and paragliding, often rising higher than the wind turbines she works on!
Excerpted with permission from the authors. Everyday Superheroes: Women in Energy Careers by Erin Twamley & Joshua Sneideman, coauthor Katie Mehnert (July 25, 2022; WiseInk). Image credit: Adua Hernandez, Illustrator.
Headline Photo: Theresa Eaton and WECS Renewables team members debuting the Smart Pitch Motor at the American Clean Power (March 2022). Photos courtesy of WECS.
Erin Twamley is an educator (M.Ed.) and award-winning children’s book author. She is dedicated to engaging the next generation of learners in protecting and creating a sustainable planet. Twamley was responsible for the education and workforce development portfolio (www.energy.gov/eere/education/contributors/erin-twamley) at the U.S. Department of Energy (2012–2016). She designed and marketed materials, programs and the website for federal, state and local school officials to use for energy literacy efforts. Twamley loves to travel (pre-COVID-19) and has lived on three continents. She currently resides in Huntsville, AL.