Jeff Vezina is Sun Electric’s Chief Technology Officer, a total tech whiz at heart, he is the man behind all of our technology. He shares with us how he see’s the company, where he sees the industry going and why he chose to work in solar.
1. You’re the CTO at Sun Electric. Can you tell us a little bit about your role?
I oversee all of the software and tech at Sun Electric, and founded the US chapter. I have been with Sun Electric for over a year now, from the early days when all we had were ideas. I am a programmer at heart and have been steadily creating software for Sun Electric to automate and enhance user experiences for consumers, rooftop owners, sun electric employees, power systems, and solar installers.
The Sun Electric model takes a different approach compared to traditional solar models and this brings a lot of challenges, such as creating tech that had to be custom built from ground up since there are no turnkey solutions for what we are building. It’s exciting to see all of that hard work paying off. We now have a good base and can iterate on our technology and keep improving it.
2. Why did you decide to work in solar?
I think we all care about the environment, and what is cleaner than solar energy – where electricity is created out of “thin air”? I came from the video game industry, programming in every areas of video games with over 15 years of experience. A college friend, Matt (our CEO), approached me with the idea for Sun Electric a while back. The work that was needed was far from my expertise at the time and I knew very little about solar, but it left me thinking.
Every year, we consume more and more electricity during peak hours without a clear plan to scale our generation. The solution was different, yet made sense and tackled this growing problem. Shortly after, I decided to take the leap into the solar industry and have not looked back. At the end of the day, we can look at the work we have done and it gives us that extra appreciation that less coal & gas power has to be turned on because of Sun Electric. And none of it depends on government subsidies or some kind of carbon credit loophole.
3. How would you describe Sun Electric?
I work from the Sun Electric office in Austin, Texas, United States with the head office located in Singapore. In this new day and age, you can pretty much do anything remotely, especially in software. We use Google Hangouts, Skype and WhatsApp on a regular basis to keep in touch.
I have made several trips to our office in Singapore to meet and catch up with everyone. We have a great team that is breaking down barriers and I love creating software to help with that effort. It’s great to be working for a company that takes pride in standing apart from the crowd and paving the way for the future of solar. That brings a good dose of challenge, which I feel is key in feeling good about the work you do.
4. Tell us about a project you’ve recently worked on that you’re excited about.
That would be all of Sun Electric’s software that runs every day. We have smart systems that ensure guarantees for our customer’s diverse requirements in their electricity products. We have software which runs 24/7 that audits all generation of electricity for our customers. Our monitoring software is constantly observing individual rooftop throughput to ensure everything is running smoothly. We have a web portal that provides transparency to our customers while also behaving like a hub to promote clean energy use. This portal keeps evolving every day and will host most of the upcoming features for Sun Electric’s tech.
5. Where do you see the industry going in the coming years?
I think the solar industry is going to continue gaining momentum with its prices dropping and efficiency rising at a steady rate. It has become a much cheaper alternative to creating electricity and we still have lots of space where we can install more panels.
There was an interesting article that went around on the Internet that showed how much solar panels would be needed to power the world’s demand. Obviously theoretical, but definitely made you realize how much power can be generated with a little space. The days where solar could only power a light bulb for a few hours are long gone, now we are able to generate power for entire neighbourhoods.
6. What is something random / fun about you that not a lot of people know?
I guess I’ve become a bit of a weather buff. It started around 10-15 years ago when I got hooked on kitesurfing while living in Los Angeles, California. I would repeatedly check for weather forecasts many times daily hoping for that nice onshore 20+ mph wind for the perfect kitesurfing conditions.
I would even drive hundreds of miles to get to a beach that had a good chance of those weather conditions. It’s a great sport to get you out there and feel at one with nature with nothing propelling you other than the wind. I haven’t been able to do enough of it here in Austin, Texas since the closest ocean is a 4-hour drive away. Although to this day, I still keep an eye out for the weather and I guess it has become more of a habit now.
7. What is the best book you’ve ever read?
I’m not much of a reader. I normally read for research and not usually for pleasure. Since I’m sitting at a desk in front of a computer for most of the day, I usually find something to do where I’m not sitting. But if I had to say one book, I would say “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer. It was a great story of his personal account of the Mount Everest disaster in 1996.