Darby Allison joined Quest Renewables’ engineering team as a systems engineer in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic in August 2020, shortly after graduating from Georgia Tech. We hope you will enjoy getting to know Darby as part of our Meet Quest series.
What is your role at Quest?
The main project I’ve been working on is our Windmaster project through a SBIR Grant from the Department of Energy (DOE). Quest’s interest in developing a system for high wind environments stemmed from the impact that natural disasters are having on vulnerable areas and the role clean energy can have in saving lives.
The Windmaster is a ground mount system designed to withstand Category 5 hurricane winds that can get up to 185 mph. Through extensive FMEAs, wind tunnel tests, UL 2703 certifications and structural tests, we have successfully developed a system that can not only withstand these winds, but also provide power to facilities that need it most in the aftermath of a storm, like hospitals, grocery stores, etc.
To put it into perspective, after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017, some people on the island were without power for 330 days after the storm. The New England Journal of Medicine estimates that up to 4,600 deaths were linked directly to the hurricane’s effect on healthcare, electricity, water supply and other critical services. The island has solar farms, but a fair number of solar systems failed due to other airborne solar modules, broken equipment and twisted metal racking.
The Windmaster was a great introduction to Quest’s space in the solar industry, and I’m excited to learn more about the industry through my engineering work. I am also working on the design team for other Quest projects.
What is your favorite thing about working at Quest?
Working at Quest is a great way to use my engineering degree to fulfill my interests and to learn about the solar industry. Even though I’m just shy of a year working in solar, I am learning something new every day. I recently attended Solar & Storage NE in Boston, and it was enriching to be around other industry experts and learn from them. I’ve been told that the SPI conference in September will be much larger, and I can’t wait to attend.
How did you get interested in the solar industry?
Before graduating from Georgia Tech, I knew I wanted to join the renewable energy industry for two reasons: the industry’s potential for growth and the promise of creating a positive impact on our world. The renewable energy industry is continuing to grow because of increased public interest and technology developments. Coming from a mechanical engineering background, I want to be on the leading edge of new technology and watch it develop during my career. Ever since my first study abroad where I learned about social entrepreneurship and creating social good, I’ve been focused on how I can use my technical skills to make a better impact on our world. Clean energy is not only the future for first world countries – it can be placed in remote environments and provide power to those who otherwise wouldn’t have it.
What is your favorite thing to do in your free time?
I grew up sailing competitively on Lake Lanier in Georgia and competing in national regattas throughout the United States. Aside from cherishing the uniqueness of the sport, sailing taught me a lot about sportsmanship, responsibility, athleticism and a general appreciation for the outdoors. I continued to competitively sail at Georgia Tech on the GT Sailing Club’s race team, where we traveled to other southeastern schools for competitions.
Spending every weekend outside in my youth has led me to other activities I enjoy as an adult: climbing, hiking, camping and (sometimes) surfing. Just get me near a body of water, and I’m a happy person.
Where is your favorite place to travel?
I was fortunate enough to take advantage of Georgia Tech’s numerous study abroad programs by attending both a program in Eastern Europe and one in Oceania. As beautifully unique as those regions are (my dream is to eventually go back to New Zealand), my friends and I have been exploring the national parks in the United States. Our most recent trip included Yosemite, Sequoia and Joshua Tree. Seeing the range of geographical environments among those three parks made me excited to see more of the US in the future.
If you could learn anything, what would it be?
My greatest interest right now as a young adult entering the workforce is financial literacy. I think financial literacy is extremely valuable for people my age to learn, but we unfortunately weren’t taught it in our general education. Thankfully, there’s a plethora of books on the subject that I’ve started to read.