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Honoring Black innovators’ contributions to renewable energy

February is Black History Month, a time to celebrate stories and achievements of Black Americans. Let’s look at four trailblazers in energy, past and present, who stand out for their exceptional achievements and dedication to sustainable solutions. 

Granville T. Woods, a contemporary of Edison, Bell and Tesla, was a 19th century engineer and inventor who produced groundbreaking work on electrical systems we still use today. Woods secured numerous patents, including for inventions related to electric railways and energy distribution, making him a pioneer in electrification long before it became a global priority. His work laid the foundation for modern electric power systems. Woods’ visionary ideas and inventions continue to inspire and shape the renewable energy landscape.   

Hazel O’Leary, the first woman and first African American to serve as the U.S. Secretary of Energy, played a pivotal role shaping energy policies that emphasized sustainability and environmental responsibility. O’Leary’s leadership during the Clinton administration created a renewed focus on renewable energy research and development. Under her guidance, the Department of Energy expanded its efforts promoting clean energy technologies and fostering a transition to a more sustainable future. 

As a materials scientist and engineer, André Taylor has made remarkable strides developing innovative materials for renewable energy applications. His work is particularly important to the advancement of solar panels and energy storage devices. His commitment to sustainability propelled the renewable energy sector forward, addressing key challenges and paving the way for a more sustainable future.  

Lisa P. Jackson has made a lasting impact and been a powerful advocate for renewable energy and environmentalism in both government and private sectors. Her tenure as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under the Obama administration saw significant advancements in regulations to reduce carbon emissions and promote renewable solutions. Now vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives at Apple, her leadership continues to influence corporate sustainability practices.  

As we reflect on the history of Black Americans this month, let us draw inspiration from these pioneers. Let us also continue to amplify the voices and celebrate the contributions of Black individuals in all fields to ensure a more inclusive future. Learn about Alliant Energy’s efforts to foster an inclusive workplace here
Grant Barton is a Communications Partner with a passion for sustainability and eco-friendly city planning. He has a diverse background in engineering, politics and international communications and hopes to apply this experience when writing and breaking down complex topics related to Alliant Energy's Clean Energy Future plans.

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