Daniel's Favorite Fact.
(Sustainable Energy in America 2023 Factbook)
“The US commissioned an estimated 43GW of new power-generating and power-storage capacity in 2022. Renewables accounted for approximately three quarters of this at 32GW.”FACTBOOK
Energy: A Final Frontier
Growing up in South Florida, one of Daniel Handal’s most vivid memories is watching the Space Shuttle launch into Earth’s atmosphere. Though he was 8 years old at the time, the desire to become someone who helps shape the world—just like the astronauts and engineers of NASA—took root in that moment as he watched the shuttle launch in awe.
The pursuit of ambitious goals was nothing new in Daniel’s family.
His parents had immigrated from Venezuela and Guatemala to Florida, where they met while studying to be electrical engineers. Their encouragement of Daniel to pursue his own passions led him to MIT—the center of innovation, as Daniel calls it—where he initially thought to study medicine. However, Daniel gained an interest in chemical engineering that led him down a new path to studying battery technologies, and eventually, renewable energy.
A summer internship at the Department of Energy sealed the deal for Daniel. The passage of the American Recovery Act shortly before he graduated meant there was a lot of work being done in energy and infrastructure in a post-Recession United States. He started his career as a consultant for early-stage cleantech companies, many of whose technology still exists today.
Although Daniel enjoyed consulting, at the end of the day, his work always centered on the client. His desire to drive more direct change led him to his current role at NextEra Energy Resources, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy, where you could say his impact has been on a utility scale.
Daniel has now worked for five years for NextEra Energy Resources, which is the world’s largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and sun, and a world leader in battery storage. As a Director based in San Francisco, he helps identify renewable energy projects that will meet the needs of utilities, commercial and industrial customers, and community choice aggregators (CCAs). Based on his recommendations, NextEra Energy Resources executes power purchase agreements to get the projects off the ground.
“We have put capital and infrastructure out there. It’s amazing to see these projects come alive—you see these huge solar facilities with hundreds of acres of solar, these massive wind turbines.”
One of the recent projects that he’s thrilled to have worked on is the Wheatridge Renewable Energy Facilities, the first “trifecta” in the nation that co-locates wind, solar, and energy storage at one location in Oregon. Another project that he’s proud to have had a hand in is the Montana Clearwater Wind project, which is expected to start generating 350MW of power by the end of this year.
NextEra Energy recently committed to Real Zero™, a goal of completely eliminating carbon emissions from its operations by 2045. Daniel knows that to achieve our emissions goals, we need to go beyond the currently available technologies and strategies. It’s an arena that he hopes to get more involved with as his career develops.
That’s why, at the beginning of COVID, he started pursuing an MBA at Berkeley part-time. Not only is he hoping to maximize his impact as a business leader in cleantech, but he’s also been able to partner with and visit the ESSEC Business School in Paris and see first-hand how energy and sustainability is developing in other countries.
However, you don’t have to look much further than Daniel’s backyard to find new developments in energy. Recently, he started a unique pandemic project with a few friends to design and prototype a hydrogen-powered barbeque grill. He wants people to imagine what it would be like to use hydrogen for your grill or in your kitchen, instead of natural gas. Part of the green revolution, he notes, is becoming more comfortable with new technologies in our own homes.
As he considers the future, Daniel continues to look back on the shuttle launch that first spurred his desire to leave the world a little bit better than he entered it.
“For my parent’s generation, everyone said space was the final frontier. For me, ‘How do we make a sustainable planet?’ that is the final frontier. We were looking up at the sky, but we should be looking down here.”
-Allie Judge, Associate, Clean Energy Business Network