Rosa Orenstein’s interest in renewable energy was sparked by a horrible event: the September 11, 2001, terrorist strikes. In the aftermath, Orenstein reflected on how the United States’ reliance on fossil fuels drove its engagement in the Middle East, as Americans sought to defend their oil interests.
“I began to consider: How can we wean ourselves off of our reliance on fossil fuels?” Orenstein, a Dallas lawyer, explained. “Then I started exploring around until I realized that solar was the best solution because it could be spread to the tiniest and largest units.” Since Orenstein became the chairperson of North Texas Renewable Energy Group, founded in early 2001, a lot has changed.
As per the 2019 Pew Research Center survey, 46 percent of U.S. homeowners have seriously considered installing solar panels on their property. According to the Labor Department, wind turbine technicians are expected to have one of the quickest growth rates of all jobs between 2019 and 2029, with solar panel installers close behind. Orenstein, who has worked for NTREG for eighteen years, understands the importance of the organization’s basic objective of assisting residents in exploring renewable energy sources.
But she’s also ready to take the group to its next goal: teaching underserved communities about green energy and ensuring that people of color, as well as women, benefit from the predicted increase in renewable jobs in Texas. “We need to broaden and incorporate the new technologies which are coming in, as well as low- and moderate-income areas, people of color, and underserved communities, so that they can be a portion of this energy revolution as well,” Orenstein added.
The COVID-19 epidemic has made attaining those goals more difficult, according to Orenstein. However, the organization has made a concerted effort to adapt, notably virtualizing its yearly DFW Solar Tour. The event took place on Saturday and featured homes and businesses that used renewable energy as well as energy conservation technology in unusual ways.
According to Mark Witte, NTREG’s event chair, while Zoom presentations can’t replace traveling all across North Texas to tour solar installations, participants still had an immersive experience via Q&A sessions with guest speakers from the city of Cedar Hill, Dallas College, and homeowners across the region.
“We’re looking forward to this year since the people on the solar tour have done an outstanding job with their solar installations, which create a lot of energy and save a lot of money,” Witte added. “It’s good for other individuals to hear that information from people who have done it and can speak to all of the challenges and other issues that come with getting it done.”