In Greek mythology, the god of wind is always male. But the Yoruban people of West Africa tell of Oya, a powerful warrior-goddess who controls wind and weather. Because of her strength, she is also the patron of female leadership. Like the wind, she is a symbol of change. Oya says, "I clear the way for what is to come." She is the original Woman of Wind Energy, and we celebrate her story through creation of a new WoWE image.
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WoWE's first Woman of the Year, Jan Blittersdorf has been CEO of Vermont-based wind measurement company NRG Systems since 2004 and active in the wind industry since the 1980s. In addition to its manufacturing strengths, NRG Systems has been recognized for innovative workforce practices and benefits that promote environmental consciousness among employees. “Our company lives and works by its environmental and social values every day, and we strive to encourage and support our employees to do the same.” Beyond NRG, Jan serves as a volunteer leader for Women of Wind Energy, the American Wind Wildlife Institute, and AWEA.
Denise Bode is the Chief Executive Officer of the American Wind Energy Association, the national trade association of the U.S. wind energy industry. Recently named by Washingtonian Magazine as one of the most powerful women in Washington, DC, Denise is a nationally recognized expert on energy policy. Her career since law school has included nine years on Capitol Hill and leadership positions in the independent petroleum and natural gas industries. A powerful advocate for the creation of a strong Renewable Electricity Standard, Denise views wind energy as vital for the environment and the economy alike.
Karen Conover, WoWE’s 2009 Woman of the Year, discovered her passion for wind energy at a fourth grade science fair and never looked back. Trained as an engineer, Karen co-founded Global Energy Concepts, which grew from a handful of staff in 1994 to 100 employees in 2008, when it was acquired by DNV. Karen has overseen wind energy work throughout the U.S. and in over twenty countries and now leads Wind Business and Strategy Development for DNV Global Energy Concepts. Karen is an active member of the AWEA Board of Directors.
Dr. Jan Hamrin, founder and long-time president of the Center for Resource Solutions, received WoWE’s second Woman of the Year Award. In over 30 years in the renewable energy sector, Jan has contributed to wind energy through research, advocacy, policy development, and creation of consumer protection programs. The US Department of Energy honored her as a “Green Power Pioneer,” saying, “Her work continues to pay dividends by building the foundation for clean, renewable energy technologies and a viable energy marketplace, helping to create jobs and economic growth for the Western region, the country and internationally.”
Rudd Mayer (1943-2002) was a pioneering environmental activist, a skillful organizer, and an effective coalition builder. As a member of the Boulder, Colorado-based Land and Water Fund of the Rockies, Rudd worked primarily on energy efficiency and renewable energy issues. Her work was essential in getting Colorado’s publicly owned energy utility to include wind power as part of its energy supply portfolio. In her memory, Women of Wind Energy established its Rudd Mayer Memorial Fellowships in 2005, awarded annually to college students and recent graduates so they can attend AWEA’s WINDPOWER conference.
The inaugural recipient of WoWE’s Rising Star Award, Elizabeth (Liz) Salerno is the manager of policy analysis for the American Wind Energy Association. Trained as an economist, Liz is bullish on wind energy and green jobs. In a recent interview on National Public Radio, she said "Green job development is probably one of the most exciting areas not only within wind, but for our economy as a whole. In 2008, 35,000 new jobs in the wind industry were created....I don't know any other energy sector or other sector in general that has had that type of employment growth."
Honored in 2008 as WoWE’s third Woman of the Year, Rachel Shimshak is the Director of the Renewable Northwest Project (RNP) in Portland, Oregon. She is a pioneer in the wind energy advocacy field, and has been the Director of RNP since its inception in 1994. Rachel is responsible for putting the Northwest on the map of wind energy development. Under her leadership, RNP has been instrumental in passing strong renewable energy policy in the Northwest. A woman of action, Rachel states, "My motto is, 'Planning is good, doing is better!'"
Sarah Wright is founder of Utah Clean Energy. In 2009, WoWE honored Sarah with the Rising Star award for her accomplishments in promoting wind, renewable energy, and efficiency within her state. Sarah has effectively fostered diverse partnerships with state agencies, municipal governments, industry, agriculture, and community groups to advance clean energy solutions, and serves as an intervener in regulatory proceedings and a witness in legislative hearings. Sarah also serves on the governor’s Energy Advisory Council and the Blue Ribbon Advisory Council on Climate Change.
Beth Soholt is the Executive Director of Wind on the Wires (WOW). Launched in 2001, WOW members include non-profit environmental organizations, tribal representatives, wind developers, wind turbine manufacturers, and business that provide goods and services to the wind industry. WOW’s mission is to overcome the barriers to bringing wind power to market. The WOW footprint covers 9 states that stretch from the Dakotas to Indiana. Beth was WoWE’s 2011 Woman of the Year and she has more than 15 years experience working with the electric industry in various capacities. She holds a seat on the Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO) Advisory Committee representing the Environmental Sector and holds a law degree from Hamline University Law School and a BA from Luther College.