Our Heroes: David Schieren of EmPower Solar

Photo: David Schieren

More than a decade ago, David Schieren decided to quit a well-paying Wall Street job and start his own solar power company. Based in Island Park, New York, EmPower Solar is today a successful business in the clean energy sector. An enthusiastic supporter of solar power, David has been a key participant in the clean energy park in the Town of Hempstead, NY and he is a co-founder of the Solar Decathlon Alumni Association.

We interviewed David recently to learn about his career change, the future of clean energy, his solar car and how he met his wife.

Below you can read an excerpt of our conversation. You can listen to the whole 30-minute interview using the audio player above right, or download the transcript of the entire conversation.

So let’s start with EmPower Solar. Tell us about your company and how it came about.

Well Empower Solar is a solar engineering and installation firm based in New York and we service Long Island, New York City, and much of the tri-state area. And we're about nine years old, founded in 2003. And we really started the company with the idea that clean energy was imperative for society. It was very important to pursue and that it would have multiple benefits. My first job was on Wall Street. I was involved with selling international equities to institutional investors. So through that I had great exposure to the workings of finance and also you know, very much because of my background as an economic student, I had the perspective of what drives the economy, what drives corporate profits. And so working on Wall Street, involved with these things, it became very evident that energy was a huge problem, really, for the economy and therefore for society.

And the reason was because energy prices are volatile and if you look at many nations, including the United States, we have very little control over our energy supply and the prices of energy. So the logical next steps there were, "What can we do to mitigate that or protect ourselves?" And to control our energy supply, to control energy prices. And it became apparent to me that the solution there was renewable energy, because the prospect for renewable and ultimately a cost effective source of energy. So you know, you add that to the fact that I was spending a lot of time with our technology research department that we had and there was a lot of focus on alternative energy technologies around 1999, 2000. And it became very apparent to me that technology and specifically clean energy technology was essential to solving these problems.

I should also mention that, I mean, I've always been an environmentalist since I was young. I mean, to me, it was very clear that the environment - it’s our world, it’s our planet, and we should take care of it, these things are just common sense to me. And I know too many others, as well, and moreover, a healthy environment means healthy people and so it’s a matter of public health. So that was always a theme for me, and then add in the notion of, "the economy needs stable, reliable, clean energy” and this is what compelled me to leave my job on Wall Street and pursue clean energy.