Former coal miner, veteran among Mo. solar biz’s growing workforce

(Editor’s note: For E2’s recent “Clean Jobs Missouri” report – which documents the 40,000 clean energy workers in the state and is where this profile was originally published – please see here.)

When orthopedic surgeon Dane Glueck evaluated putting a solar array on his St. Louis rooftop in 2006, one of the first questions he researched was where to find certified solar installers. To Glueck’s dismay, Missouri had no NABCEP-certified installers—a designation that’s the industry’s gold standard.

In response, Glueck took matters into his own hands. He took the qualifying exam himself and became the state’s first NABCEP installer. As Glueck installed the final panel on his own residential system, an interested neighbor began asking questions about the economics of residential solar and whether it made sense to put an array up on his own rooftop.

Recognizing a business opportunity, StraightUp Solar was born.

StraightUps’s workforce is full of compelling stories. Mike Hornitschek, the company’s strategic development director, served for 23 years in the Air Force, ascending to the rank of Commander of the 375th Air Mobility Wing at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, before recognizing the geopolitics of resource security was driving America’s overseas military operations.

“Once the energy epiphany seizes you, you can’t unsee it,” Hornitschek said. “The greatest risk to my kids having a quality of life greater than or equal to my own is energy insecurity. I feel like I’m on a mission in my second career to enable this, however I can.”

Or see Matt Reuscher, an Illinois coal miner who was laid off in spring 2012 after a deep drought caused his local mine to scale back production. Now, Reuscher installs rooftop systems for StraightUp.

“Back home, mining is what people do,” Reuscher said. “The clean air, it took me a while to get used to,” he chuckled, recalling his first workday on a roof. “All my friends are so passionate about mining … I’d love to see them make the same transition I have.”

Learn more about Matt and the rest of the crew at StraightUp Solar in the video at the bottom of the page.

Like many Missouri-based solar companies, StraightUp faces challenges in the Missouri market since local utilities canceled the consumer rebate program. But StraightUp has responded by diversifying into a new efficient lighting product line and expanding operations into southern Illinois.

StraightUp’s employees are far from discouraged.

“People are talking now about where the energy comes from and why that’s important,” said Erin Noble, director of staff. “The growth and maturation of the industry has been really exciting to see.”

 

–Environmental Entrepreneurs