We spoke to Business Development Manager Jane Qualey to learn about her switch from the arts to the renewable energy field and how she’s working with the asset management team to grow the business.

Where are you from?

JQ: I grew up in Minnesota and I currently reside in St. Paul, Minnesota.


What do you do in your free time? Do you have any hobbies?

JQ: I love meditation, cross country skiing, solitaire, the Timberwolves, and collecting/reading memoirs of famous women in history.


Who was one of your childhood heroes? Who inspired you?

JQ: Yes, there were three: Lucy, Judy, and Madonna. Lucy and Madonna were/are amazing businesswomen. In addition to that, both were totally in control of their own narratives and dominated their respective fields, all while producing amazing art that connected with millions of people. There weren’t many other public women like these two growing up, sadly. There’s definitely more now, thankfully.


What did you want to be when you grew up?

JQ: Storm chaser, astronaut, president, vice president, librarian, teacher, writer, movie star.


How did you end up pursuing a career in the renewable energy field?

JQ: I originally studied theater out in New York. The first half of my career was arts-oriented– I worked in arts administration, music, and film production.
The turning point for me was when I went and saw Bill McKibben speak at Town Hall in New York and his presentation on climate change blew my mind. I was still pretty dumb to the climate situation and this info changed everything. Suddenly, I really wanted to pursue work in renewable energy and climate policy. Once I found an opportunity to get involved in solar in Minnesota, I jumped at it.


What was your first solar job?

JQ: I got started doing freelance land acquisition when the Minnesota community solar market started to explode and there was a high demand for land. In the dead of Minnesota winter, I went out knocking door-to-door, trying to convince farmers to sign up their land for community solar. I then went from land acquisition to residential sales to commercial sales to development. Now I’m working with asset management. As the industry and energy needs keep growing, understanding the solar business from many angles has become very helpful.


How did you find out about ForeFront Power?

JQ: One of my old colleagues, who is now a current colleague, raved about ForeFront and really loved the company culture, market opportunities, and Mitsui’s strong leadership. The rest is history. I’ve been with the company for 2 years now and can happily say her judgments were correct.


What does the day-to-day life of a business development manager at ForeFront look like

JQ: In my current role as business development manager, I get to work every day with the awesome in-house asset management team as we build out our third-party business. We’re currently managing around 120 solar projects and 100s of vendor relationships across the country. From our lived experience of wearing the hat of an originator, developer, owner, and operator, we have a unique perspective on the whole market of asset management and ForeFront rightfully knew it would be a valuable third-party offering.


What do you enjoy most about your role?

JQ: The asset management team is amazing! Such a great group of talented people. I also like ForeFront’s technology-agnostic approach to development, which not only makes it more interesting as a buyer/manager but it allows us to really customize our customer solutions based on their individual needs. Every proposal has been different, which keeps the experience genuine and valuable.


What do you find the most challenging?

JQ: Currently, it’s the uncertainty with the Build Back Better Act. Lots of our partners are waiting on that to move. This important legislation would enable the solar industry to continue on its robust growth trajectory, incentivize domestic manufacturing, and alleviate supply chain constraints. It’s a big deal and very needed.


Do you have a favorite ForeFront project?

JQ: It was super fun diving down into the history of our award-winning City of Ames project. I think it represents everything we do great: smooth commissioning, high production, and community engagement. It’s a great project.


What are some ways we can encourage more people, organizations, and businesses, to adopt renewable energy

JQ: I think it comes down to education and community engagement, taking the time to connect with the areas that are directly impacted by our projects. One array can benefit such a diverse group of people in the community, from the farmer who owns the land to the local residents and businesses. People need to know that. You have to really connect with communities to create advocates on a local level. Spreading the word to help people understand how solar is benefitting them will only make it easier for people to adopt it and adapt to it.


Do you have any advice you give to people pursuing a career in renewable energy?

JQ: I would say to them the renewable energy market is exciting, modern, and will keep you on your toes as it’s constantly evolving. You might feel super successful one moment and then totally stalled in another because that’s the nature of the beast and the business. Just keep going, keep pushing, and don’t give up!