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Solar One Announces Retirement of Executive Director

Press Release

Founding Executive Director, Christopher J. Collins will retire December 2021 after 17 years leading the organization.

The organizational leadership team, the Board of Directors, and all staff are grateful for his leadership and hard work over the years and note that he leaves them and the organization well-positioned to carry his legacy and the charitable mission forward, building on the solid foundations he put in place.

New York City (June 3, 2021) – Solar One today announces founding Executive Director, Christopher J. Collins will retire, effective December 31, 2021, after 17 years leading the organization. During his tenure, Solar One grew from an organization with one primary focus – managing Stuyvesant Cove Park as an eco-learning amenity for the city of New York – to an organization serving over 50,000 constituents each year through four key environmental education pillars:

  • Green Design Lab™, K-12 environmental STEM programs, including teacher training, hands-on learning activities and career readiness for high school students in NYC public schools in all five boroughs, plus new and growing programming in Newark.
  • Green Workforce Training for adults, building skills and career pathways for un- and underemployed individuals, encountering barriers to today’s job market
  • Here Comes Solar, technical assistance to develop solar projects in partnership with affordable housing providers, environmental justice groups, and low-income communities
  • Management of Stuyvesant Cove Park on the East River, where we are building an environmental education center over the next few years in tandem with the East Side Coastal Resiliency project.

Mr. Collins has been instrumental in developing programs that fill a critical need across the New York metro area in support of efforts to create a more sustainable, equitable city. He effectively steered the organization to expand all programming through strong management, widespread partnership development, and both charitable and earned revenue streams.

Solar One’s Green Design Lab delivers hands-on lessons and activities, fostering sustainable behaviors and student-led solutions to real-world issues focused on Energy, Air, Water, Materials, and Food, as well as 21st Century career skills. Solar One’s longest-running K-12 program is ‘NYC Solar Schools’, providing curriculum and teacher training for all NYC DOE schools, as well as advanced technical solar training for Career and Technical Education (CTE) high school students. With the growth in the clean energy industry, our Solar CTE program serves as a bridge, providing training and valuable work experience that builds STEM skills and better prepares students for future green career opportunities. Over the span of 10+ years, the Green Design Lab (GDL) has reached nearly 30,000 students and over 1,000 schools.

Since 2014, the Here Comes Solar program has been helping affordable housing providers, environmental justice groups, and low-income communities incorporate solar energy into the mix of energy options available for their neighborhood. This program is effectively growing the solar market while increasing access to the benefits of clean energy. To date, we have developed a pipeline of 500 buildings that have installed or are committed to install solar mostly in low- and moderate-income communities. These buildings will host 18 megawatts of solar capacity, a $60M investment in clean energy in the communities most impacted by the economic and public health effects of pollution and climate change.

For over ten years, the Green Workforce program has successfully trained over 4,000 un- and underemployed adults with the hard skills needed to enter or advance in high growth clean energy careers: energy efficiency, renewable energy, green construction, and green building operations and maintenance. We collaborate with our workforce partner organizations to support job placement for priority populations who participate in NYC’s workforce organization programs. The hard skills training and industry-recognized certifications Solar One provides, gives New Yorkers an advantage to finding local, livable wages, and job security.

Prior to his tenure at Solar One, Mr. Collins was an attorney and an AIDS and LGBTQ activist.   In addition to his role at Solar One, Mr. Collins was instrumental in the creation of two other NYC non-profit institutions: NYC Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center and the Callen-Lorde Health Clinic.

Solar One’s Board Chair, Sara Queen states “We are so grateful for all of Chris’ work leading and developing Solar One into the transformative organization it is today. Under his stewardship our outstanding team has delivered education, jobs training, and renewable energy to tens of thousands of New Yorkers. Chris’ leadership has been inspiring as our team transitioned to virtual delivery of services during the past 18 months. We wish Chris much joy in his retirement. Solar One will continue to thrive due to the firm foundation that Chris built over the last 17 years.”

After years of successful program development, John Shea, Chief Executive Officer of the NYC Department of Education, noted the strength of the ongoing partnership, saying “Chris Collins has been a wonderful partner to the NYC Department of Education over his long tenure. His vision for practical education programming has yielded real results for thousands of New York City students through the Green Design Lab curriculum, and we at the DOE greatly admire his accomplishments. He will be missed.”

Words of support are also offered from members of the funding and philanthropy community.

“Over the past 17 years, I have been delighted to watch Chris transform Solar One from an education-focused affiliate of the Community Environmental Center into the dynamic, stand-alone nonprofit it is today,” said Arturo Garcia-Costas, program officer for the environment at The New York Community Trust. “He was exactly the wise, visionary, and experienced leader that the organization needed to respond to new challenges and opportunities, and the city is so much better off for having had his leadership.”

“Under Chris Collins’s leadership, Solar One attracted philanthropic capital from donors in the form of grants, loans, and revolving funds,” said Sam Marks, Chief Executive Officer of FJC – A Foundation of Philanthropic Funds. “The organization has become a recognized leader for donors passionate about New York City and the environment.”

The energy, dedication, and vision of Mr. Collins will be greatly missed by all at Solar One, and by each of the diverse communities we serve through programs and partnership.


Contact: Michael Barry, Communications Manager, Solar One
(646) 741-5225


Solar One is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization whose mission is to design and deliver innovative education, training, and technical assistance that fosters sustainability and resiliency in diverse urban environments. We empower learning that changes the way people think about energy, sustainability, and resilience by engaging and educating a diverse set of stakeholders and beneficiaries. Our programs help individuals and communities explore new ways of living and working that are more adaptive to a changing world.