It is with great pleasure that we introduce our newest board member, Dominion Energy's Ruth Prideaux. Ruth is Director of Generation Construction for Dominion and in her role, she is responsible for design, construction and commissioning of the company’s utility scale solar projects for both the regulated and unregulated company entities. Previously Ruth has held roles in Dominion Energy’s power operations, mergers and acquisitions, energy marketing and industrial customer support departments. She is LEED-AP certified and is a licensed Professional Engineer in Virginia. She is also a member of Leadership Metro Richmond class of 2019. A proud graduate of Virginia Tech with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, Ruth possesses a wealth of knowledge and experience that we at SHINE are thrilled to have at the table as we continue working to bring innovative solar careers to Virginians. I had an opportunity to sit down with Ruth a few weeks ago and chat about her career, insights into the energy transition and thoughts about how she sees the future of SHINE. Here are a few excerpts of the conversation...
DP: What attracted you to Dominion Energy as a graduate of VT?
RP: I grew up in Virginia knowing the old business name VEPCO as my family’s electric supplier, and watched gratefully as the line crews would come in trucks to restore power after an outage. But after graduating with my degree in Mechanical Engineering from Virginia Tech (VT), I also learned that the many businesses of Dominion Energy were guided by a dedicated and progressive group of professionals that built and maintained power plants and intricate systems. I was attracted to the complex problems that Dominion Energy teams needed to solve and was thrilled to be offered a job in Dominion Energy’s Nuclear Business unit supporting the Surry and North Anna nuclear power stations soon after graduation. With the solid base of an engineering education from VT that focused on problem solving, I was drawn to join the team at Dominion Energy to support their mission of bringing safe and reliable energy to our community.
DP: What inspired you to become involved with SHINE?
RP: Fast forward 30 years from that first Dominion Energy job, after many opportunities to grow and learn different sectors of the business, and now I find myself Director of Generation Construction responsible for the design and construction of Dominion Energy’s utility scale solar fleet. The company has built over 70 solar projects in 9 different states to serve a host of utility, industrial, governmental and university customers. The success of each of these projects can be tied directly to the people that work to plan, permit and construct these facilities at all levels. As renewable projects are becoming more economical and coming to market more quickly, the need for the workforce continues to grow. I’m excited in the mission of SHINE to tool up students to be ready to fill these jobs, and give them access to succeed in a challenging and rewarding career in the renewable energy industry.
DP: How do you see Dominion’s role in the evolution of renewable energy development at utility scale?
RP: Dominion Energy is a leader in renewable energy development, and we’re committed to achieving net zero carbon dioxide and methane emissions by 2050. Our solar fleet, already the 4th largest among U.S. utility holding companies, is projected to increase significantly as we plan to grow our Virginia renewable energy and energy storage tenfold over the next 15 years. We also are on track to build the largest offshore wind project in the U.S.
DP: What would you say to a young woman interested in pursuing a STEM career?
RP: I would tell her congratulations!... she has picked the perfect time to consider this type of career. Small and large businesses are more reliant than ever on technology and innovation, and having an interest in science, technology, engineering and math will give her many opportunities to step up and be the questioning attitude and problem solving abilities needed to be a valuable member of any team she wishes to join.
DP: What does community engagement look like for Dominion Energy?
RP: Community support and engagement is at the heart of everything we do. Each year, our employee volunteers across 20 states roll up their sleeves to weatherize homes, build nature trails in parks, clean up waterways, paint and repair school facilities, and much more. We support nonprofit causes that meet basic human needs, protect the environment, promote education, and encourage community vitality. Through the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation, as well as EnergyShare and other programs, we contributed more than $48 million in 2019 to community causes.
DP: How would you describe the importance of workforce development in the solar industry in particular?
RP: The solar industry is going through a dramatic time of growth, as the confluence of reduced cost for major equipment has matched up with a time of great interest from customers to significantly increase their usage of renewable energy. Solar energy requires a larger workforce to meet these demands, and now is the time to identify workers and give them the skills and tools to be ready to contribute to deliver this renewable energy to our homes, businesses and communities. All types of workers are needed to bring these projects to fruition from development and permitting experts, environmental specialist and civil / mechanical construction teams, electrical commissioning and maintenance teams, as well as project management, supply chain and contracting support teams. Having the workforce ready to bring these projects online and maintained for the next 20+ years will be the key to assuring that renewable energy is available to provide carbon free energy to our communities for the long haul.