August 25, 2021 / Clay Luna and Solar School
"I would find it hard to believe there’s a worthier candidate than Clay Luna for this award. He has designed solar energy systems and led dozens of SonLight Power installations to improve the quality of life for children and their families in some of the most vulnerable places on Earth. And he does all this with a servant’s heart and spirit of compassion.”
– Kevin Sasson, SonLight Power Executive Director
Each year, the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) honors one individual with the Walt Ratterman Award for Creative Community Energy. This year, the recipient of this prestigious award is SonLight Power Director of Programs, Clay Luna.
NABCEP is the most widely recognized certification organization for professionals in the field of renewable energy. At NABCEP’s annual Continuing Education Conference, the organization presents the Walt Ratterman Award to the Board Certified Professional who leads the most creative public service-oriented renewable energy project of the year.
Nominations are scored according to the project’s sustainability, impact on daily life, economic stability and environmental responsibility, and coordination efforts with local labor, resources, and materials, among other criteria.
The award pays tribute to Walt Ratterman, one of NABCEP’s first Board Certified Professionals, who lost his life to a devastating earthquake while working in Haiti.
“I’ve always admired Walt Ratterman,” says Clay. “He was doing what I wanted to do, and he was doing it all over the world. And what I admire most is not that he was successful, but how much heart he had.”
Walt served some of the world’s most vulnerable populations with the mission “to promote an increased quality of life in remote, rural regions of the world through the use of renewable energy.”
Clay is honored by the comparison to the man he admired over the years, saying, “I didn’t ever think I could fill Walt’s shoes and I never did what I did to win an award. It was a humbling phone call to receive, telling me I had won. A landmark moment in my career.”
Clay’s colleagues, on the other hand, were not surprised by this honor at all.
“I would find it hard to believe there’s a worthier candidate than Clay Luna for this award,” says SonLight Power Executive Director, Kevin Sasson. “He has designed solar energy systems and led dozens of SonLight Power installations to improve the quality of life for children and their families in some of the most vulnerable places on Earth. He does all this with a servant’s heart and spirit of compassion.”
"I never did what I did to win an award. It was a humbling phone call to receive, telling me I had won. A landmark moment in my career.”
– Clay Luna, SonLight Power Director of Programs and Walt Ratterman Award recipient
From California to Tennessee to Haiti
As Director of Programs, Clay’s job is to spec solar energy projects, put together budgets and timelines, lead on-site installations and teach local technicians how to maintain the systems after our mission teams leave. But for Clay, it isn’t just a job, it’s a calling.
After leaving the Marine Corps and moving from California to Tennessee to start his own solar installation company, Clay was prompted to find ways to use his God-given talents for the greater good. When his wife searched online for “solar missions” in 2015, Clay discovered the organization that would become his passion: SonLight Power. Two weeks after connecting with SonLight Power founder Allen Rainey, Clay was on the ground in Haiti for his first mission trip.
No matter how large or small the project, Clay is consistently struck by the deep, lasting impact of each SonLight Power installation in the lives of those served. He remembers the system he installed at an orphanage on that first trip to Haiti, a country where an estimated 15% of the population has reliable power.
“They were so excited just to get light,” Clay recalls. “The woman who ran the orphanage asked whether the system could power her blender. She was thrilled to know that the new solar system would allow her to make all the meals for the kids, and that would just make her life one hundred times easier. Being able to have that impact feels good every time.”
"She was thrilled to know that the new solar system would allow her to make all the meals for the kids, and that would just make her life one hundred times easier. Being able to have that impact feels good every time.”
– Clay Luna, recalling the reaction from an orphanage caregiver on his first SonLight Power mission trip
...Back to Haiti Again
Clay was chosen for the Walt Ratterman Award because of his recent work on the solar microgrid that now powers the hospital near Jacmel, Haiti operated by Haitian Christian Outreach (HCO). That microgrid is especially significant today as the hospital continues to care for the influx of patients in the aftermath of two devasting events: Tropical Storm Grace and the recent 7.2-magnitude earthquake that has impacted tens of thousands along Haiti's southern peninsula.
Not only is the microgrid saving precious lives, but it’s also saving precious resources. HCO will recoup an estimated $100,000 in first-year savings alone on the SonLight Power-installed microgrid versus the cost of running the diesel generator that used to power the entire hospital. That considerable savings will allow HCO to hire more individuals at the hospital or purchase medication, oxygen, and related equipment to improve patient care.
In recent years, Clay has also led high-impact solar microgrid installations in Haiti at the Lifesong for Orphans campus in Bercy and the Back2Back Ministries campus in Bon Repos. Both projects will improve the quality of orphan care and job training in their respective regions.
“The recognition Clay is receiving from NABCEP validates the promise of the SonLight Power mission that when you support or serve on a SonLight Power project, you know that you're working with the best of the best in solar ministry: Clay Luna.”
– Kevin Sasson, SonLight Power Executive Director
Clay’s expertise has equipped other missions like HCO, Lifesong, and Back2Back with reliable solar energy to serve their communities more effectively. What’s more, Clay shares his solar knowledge as the lead instructor at SonLight Power Solar School, where he has equipped hundreds of individuals and mission leaders with the fundamentals of solar design and installation.
Beyond raising awareness for SonLight Power’s solar equipping and training programs, Clay hopes his receiving the Walt Ratterman Award will inspire the NABCEP community and others in the renewable energy sector to give back as he was prompted earlier.
On August 11, Clay was presented the award at the NABCEP CE Conference in Knoxville, Tennessee, just a few hours’ drive across the state from his hometown of Lawrenceburg. He used the platform to encourage his renewable energy peers to use their God-given talents for solar missions. He plans to do the same while networking at the mega Solar Power International / Smart Energy Week Conference & Expo next month in New Orleans.
“We’ve been focused on getting more solar professionals involved in the SonLight Power mission,” Clay says. “We just hope to see more people giving back of their talents.”
Clay embodies the qualities the Ratterman Award represents – dedication to his craft, selflessness in service to others, and courage to advance projects in the places SonLight Power serves.
“At SonLight Power, we’ve been called to be great at two things: ministry and solar power,” Kevin says. “The recognition Clay is receiving from NABCEP validates the promise of the SonLight Power mission that when you support or serve on a SonLight Power project, you know that you're working with the best of the best in solar ministry: Clay Luna.”
For more information: SonLight Power Solar School