You are here

Spark: A space for social innovators to combine ideas with networks

 Registration is closed for this event


Hacking Community Solar: The Democratization
of Solar Energy

Facilitated By Donna Sanders '17BUS,
Co-founder of Social Solar

With special guest speakers
Gary Skulnik, Founding Partner, OurPower
Annie Su, Senior Analyst, Ecogy Solar
Yaniv Kalish '12BUS, CEO, SolarKal

Wednesday, February 1, 2017
6:00–8:00 p.m.
Refreshments included with RSVP

Uris Hall, Calder Lounge (1st Floor)
3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027

Pollution that arises from the burning of fossil fuels has several environmental, financial, and health consequences. As a result, international, national, and local laws are being enacted favoring renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. New York State, specifically, has enacted a Clean Energy Standard that mandates 50 percent of all energy come from renewable sources by 2030.

Traditionally, many people are unable to participate in solar energy because they rent their home, live in an apartment building, or own properties unsuitable for installing solar panels. With the New York State Shared Renewables Program, customers can, for the first time, join together to share in the benefits of local solar, wind, and other renewable energy projects. Under this program, solar electric panels are installed offsite to produce renewable energy for subscribing members. Each member’s solar production then appears as a credit on their monthly utility bill. Residents of apartments and condominiums can now go solar!


  • What are some of the financial and structural barriers prohibiting widespread community solar adoption in NYC?
  • What are viable community solar solutions?


Social Solar caters to NYC residents and businesses who are dissatisfied with being excluded from solar simply because they live in co-ops and condos, or because their business rooftop is too small. Social Solar’s service is a new shared solution that provides consolidation of solar needs to form one solar community as an inclusive option for solar power, utility savings, and cleaner air.

OurPower is an outreach campaign and an online educational portal that enables utility payers in the state of New York to participate in community solar. It aims to make renewable energy more accessible through education, collaboration, and driving healthy competition.

Ecogy Solar develops projects and deploys private capital to help businesses, municipalities, nonprofits, and utilities reduce their energy costs while making the planet cleaner.

SolarKal is the leading marketplace connecting solar energy installers with businesses. SolarKal leverages its network of trained solar energy brokers and proprietary tools to originate commercial solar project, lower the cost of solar, and accelerate the adaptation of solar energy in commercial and industrial space.

Donna Sanders, '17BUS, Co-founder, Social Solar
Donna is a United States Marine Corps veteran who served as a Captain in the Financial Management & Nuclear Biological & Chemical Warfare specialties. She earned the National Defense Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, Meritorious Unit Citation, and Certificate of Commendation before separating from the service. She is a previous Territory Manager with Johnson & Johnson and a Pharmaceutical Sales Representative with Pfizer. Donna has a passion for service. She co-founded an award-winning home for physically, emotionally, educationally, and sexually abused and neglected children. She is a certified Energy Auditor with the Association of Energy Engineers, a 2016 Veterans in Global Leadership Fellow, Impact Investing Consultant with Columbia Impact Investing Initiative (CI3), and a 2016 Environmental Defense Fund Climate Corp Fellow. She has worked on sustainability projects in China, Hong Kong, and the USA. Donna holds several degrees including an A.A.S., B.A., and M.S.A. She is currently a 2017 Master of Business Administration candidate with Columbia, London, and Hong Kong Business schools.

Gary Skulnik, Founding Partner, OurPower; Founder and CEO, Neighborhood Sun
OurPower solar program is designed to educate New Yorkers about community solar and how they can get involved. The program is a partnership of Gary’s company, Neighborhood Sun, a Maryland community solar company, and Bullfrog Power, a Canadian green energy company. Both companies are social enterprises—Bullfrog Power is a B Corp and Neighborhood Sun is a Pending B Corp, and they share missions to expand the use of clean energy as a way to fight climate change. Gary has been a longtime environmental advocate at both the national and state level. He is originally from the New York area, but now lives in Silver Spring, Maryland with his family.

Annie Su, Senior Analyst, Ecogy
Prior to joining Ecogy, Annie worked in Myanmar consulting on a research project studying off-grid electrification strategies in rural villages. Previously, Annie worked at Bagan Capital, an investment advisory and private equity firm focused on Myanmar, where she helped launch their microfinance subsidiary. Annie received her B.A. in Political Science at Hunter College and M.A. in International Relations and International Economics at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

Yaniv Kalish '12BUS, CEO, SolarKal
Yaniv has been in the solar energy industry for 10 years. During his career, Yaniv has originated, financed, and developed dozens of solar PV systems in the commercial and industrial space. Prior to founding SolarKal, Yaniv built and led the solar energy division for UGE, a publicly traded renewable energy solutions provider. Prior to UGE, Yaniv led business development and project finance for IPPsolar, a leading solar energy developer based in NY. Before his MBA, Yaniv was a mechanical engineer, designing hydraulic tracking systems for solar CSP plants. Besides solar, Yaniv is a Boston Consulting Group alum and holds an MBA from Columbia Business School.



Spark Workshops provide social innovators with an opportunity to explore resources, connections, and potential solutions to help their social ventures. These workshops tap into the collective knowledge within Columbia University and the larger entrepreneurial and social impact community.

This workshop is open to all who are willing to bring their ideas, experience, and connections to help solve social and environmental challenges that these social innovators aim to address.

If you are unable to attend this event but would like more information on Spark, please register for our mailing list.

For more information, or if you would like to suggest a future Spark workshop, please contact

This workshop is supported by the Lang Center for Entrepreneurship, Social Enterprise Club, Green Business Club, and Tamer Center for Social Enterprise at Columbia Business School; and the Columbia Organization of Rising Entrepreneurs (CORE) at Columbia University.

February 1st, 2017 from  6:00 PM to  8:00 PM
Phone: 2128542176