Being Called A “Wind Weenie” by Her Former Coworkers Doesn't Bother Abigail Krich. In fact, the 27-year-old engineer is so passionate about advancing the development and integration of renewable energy that she recently started Boreas Renewables — a Somerville, Massachusetts, U.S.-based provider of renewable energy project development consulting services, with a focus on wind projects — to help others do the same.
“I knew the renewable power industry was having a hard time growing due to a shortage of qualified staff,” said Krich. “However, I had no idea just how much demand there would be. If I had three more of me, I could fill their plates with work right now. Because it is just me, I have to be careful not to take on too much.”
Curbing her workload is easier said than done. Raised in Lexington, Massachusetts, the young entrepreneur pushed herself to overachieve from an early age. After graduating from high school a semester early, she spent the spring in Costa Rica teaching English and environmental education. When Krich returned home, she entered Cornell University — an Ivy League school located in Ithaca, New York, U.S. — though unsure of what career track she wanted to follow.
“I've always been interested in the outdoors and the environment,” she said. “I also wanted to do something that would make a difference in the world. I began reading articles on solar energy and how it was such a great idea, but it wasn't taking off because it was inefficient and expensive. Something clicked while I was reading one of the articles, and I knew that was the field I wanted to pursue.”
However, it wasn't until 2002 that Krich found her true calling, when she and several friends decided to attend the opening of the Fenner Wind Farm in Fenner, New York. “I had been a die-hard fan of photovoltaics and had read many negative articles about wind power,” Krich recalled. “I had heard that wind turbines were noisy and ugly, and had no evidence to the contrary. When I arrived within sight of the Fenner project, my jaw dropped. I had to pull over and get out of my car. The turbines were majestic and beautiful. I was hooked.”
After obtaining her B.S. dergee in biological and environmental engineering from Cornell, Krich spent six months interning at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the National Wind Technology Center. An electrical engineer with whom Krich worked taught night courses at the University of Denver on electrical machinery, so she began sitting in on his classes. Krich wanted to understand the fundamentals of what happened when utilities tried to place wind power on the grid. “Because I didn't have the electrical engineering background, I kept hitting roadblocks to understanding the fundamental issues,” she said. “I thought if I could better understand how the system worked, I could see solutions more easily. That's when I began to consider going back to school.”
Krich followed her internship at the NREL with a brief stint at Northern Power Systems (Waitsfield, Vermont, U.S.), where she worked as a mechanical and electrical designer for the company's distributed generation project engineering group. In 2005, she returned to Cornell to attain her master's in electrical and computer engineering with a focus on power systems. Going back to her alma mater also allowed Krich to renew her efforts to reduce the university's carbon footprint.
“While I was an undergrad, I started and/or led a number of renewable-energy focused student groups and initiatives,” she said. “I also encouraged the College of Engineering to offer more renewable-energy specific courses, which they now have a number of. When I decided to go into renewable energy, the school only offered one such course.”
In addition to being a past-president of KyotoNOW! — a student group at Cornell University dedicated to fighting global climate change — she established the Krich Solar Fund at Cornell that, along with minor advising, enabled the university to install four photovoltaic systems in the past two years.
After completing her master's degree, Krich spent two years at Tamarack Energy (Essex, Connecticut, U.S.), where she focused on wind energy and how the company would integrate its projects into the New England energy and capacity markets. This past July, Krich struck out on her own and founded Boreas Renewables.
When she isn't running her company, the engineer enjoys a host of outdoor activities, including biking, hiking, camping, and skiing. Last summer, she spent three weeks in Tanzania on safari and hiking Mount Kilimanjaro. Krich also plans to return to school for her MBA.
“In all of the projects I've worked on, it's very clear that no matter how good the technology is, if the business side doesn't make sense, it's never going to get beyond a prototype or demonstration project,” she said.
Most importantly, Krich said she focuses on being the best person she can. “It might sound corny, but I try to do as much good in this world as possible, whether it's for the people around me that I know or for strangers. To me, that's what matters most.”