Commons Speaker Series #1– Dr. Susan Spencer

We were honored to have Dr. Susan Spencer engage with our students and faculty on Thursday, October 16th, and were inspired by the information she shared during her mini-residency at Harley. She concluded her stay with a presentation to the public in the evening on transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy. As a solar scientist, founder of ROCSPOT, and loyal Rochester native, she has a clear and pointed vision for moving Rochester off of all fossil fuel reliance by 2025.

Dr. Spencer began her morning speaking with the students in AP Chemistry, AP Physics, and Environmental Science. She shared her education and career path and then answered questions from the students.  Some of the questions centered on the solar cells and technology that Dr. Spencer had worked to develop and others more broadly addressed her time at MCC and RIT.  Here is video of her explanation of micro-grids, as she discussed the impact Hurricane Sandy had on New York State’s energy grid and the daunting task of maintaining that infrastructure ($30 billion to just maintain, not improve):  Explanation of power micro-grids.



After meeting with the science students, Dr. Spencer met with Chris Hartman and Ja’Daiza Johnson to discuss community connections and the potential for collaboration. From there, she engaged with the Food and Farm Lab students (spinning out more honey!) and then the Living Building class. With Living Building, she explored the various energy systems of the Commons, especially the solar panels and DC converters. She looked at the cumulative solar energy data found on the Sunny Portal website, and spoke a bit about the compelling numbers and how to market the story of solar energy to Harley and Rochester. Here is video of Dr. Spencer looking at the solar energy data with the Living Building students: Interpreting solar data. She was also able to enjoy lunch at Harley while talking with the Middle School science teachers and other faculty.


For her evening presentation, Dr. Spencer provided a solid overview of climate change (increased average temperatures, more severe weather events, etc.), then spoke specifically about ROCSPOT’s purpose and passion for making solar energy available and affordable to everyone. She outlined her efforts in New York State to help facilitate energy audits (NYSERDA), support home efficiency improvements (PathStone and Neighborworks), and to work with Governor Cuomo (REV–Reforming Energy Vision) to create jobs and build four micro-grids in Rochester and the surrounding areas through ground mounted arrays, rooftop arrays, and rooftop residential. Dr. Spencer also referenced her work internationally with the Climate Reality Project, and as the US Ambassador for SolarAid, an international charity committed to the eradication of kerosene in Africa by 2020.

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