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Board and Staff

Board of Directors

Brad Van Wert, President

Brad Van Wert is an independent consultant and contractor in the solar industry. As former owner and co-founder of Harvest Solar, Brad's experience in the solar sector as a leader, communicator, and advisor shines through his passion for working one-on-one with clients and explaining how solar could be a good fit for them.

Throughout each of the past four Montana legislative sessions Brad has taken an active interest in helping move forward responsible policy that is good for the industry in this state. During the 2017 legislative session he built the ‘Solar Guy’ brand and persona to help spread the word to Montanans from around the state and rally their support. This campaign showed him first hand just how excited the citizens of Montana are about renewable energy.

Whether Brad is wiring panels on a roof; advocating for responsible legislation and public policy; or outside playing in the mountains with his dog Brigsby, he is proud to say that he wakes up every day going to work for the sun.


Mark Juedeman, Vice President

Mark grew up on a ranch between Helena and Great Falls.  He moved to Houston to work for an energy company in 1980 after graduating with a degree in Earth Science from MSU. In 1991 he and his family moved to New Orleans, where Mark was active in historic preservation, bicycle advocacy, education, building material reuse, and obtaining personal experience with clean energy like small wind and PV. Hurricane Katrina displaced Mark and family back to Houston, where he was involved with local food, urban sustainability, university teaching, and permaculture, and where he helped found Transition Houston. He and his wife Kathy moved home to Montana in 2015 upon her retirement and live in Helena, while spending much of their time working on the family ranch. Mark has served on the boards of AERO, Transition US, and the Helena Citizen Conservation Board, and is a member of the steering team for Resilient Helena.


Kevin Owens, P.E., Secretary

Kevin P. Owens has over 46 years of experience in the Northwest energy and utility sector, serving senior roles at investor-owned utilities, county government, people's utility districts, and electric cooperatives. He recently retired after six years as the General Manager of Beartooth Electric Cooperative headquartered in Red Lodge, MT. He earned his engineering degree from Gonzaga University, Master's of Business Administration from the University of Puget Sound, and is a licensed professional engineer in the state of Washington and Oregon. Kevin is married with four grown boys, two awesome grandsons, the unconditional love of Boomer the dog, and the very much conditional love of Ace the cat.

Patrick Judge, Treasurer

Pat Judge has advocated for clean energy policies in Montana since 1996. Most of that time was spent working for the Montana Environmental Information Center, as lobbyist and energy program director. He served on the Governor’s Climate Change Advisory Committee and the Helena Climate Change Task Force, and continues to serve on NorthWestern Energy’s USB Renewable Energy Advisory Committee. In 2000, he completed his master’s thesis on Montana’s misguided experiment with electric utility deregulation. Currently, he is employed as a physics instructor at Carroll College, where he delights in teaching the “Energy and Environment” courses.


Caroline Bean

Caroline Bean is Missoula County’s Climate Resilience Coordinator, where she oversees the implementation of climate adaptation strategies across the County. Previously, Caroline was the Program Director for Climate Smart Missoula, where she worked on a variety of local climate mitigation and resiliency efforts. She holds a Masters in Urban Planning from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, and has begun pursuing a PhD in Forest and Conservation Sciences at the University of Montana. She is grateful to spend her days working towards a more resilient and equitable community.


 
Kylie Esselström

Kylie has lived in Montana since 2017 and grew up on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. After working for the Forest Service for 5 years in fisheries, she became interested in renewable energy as a way to mitigate the effects of climate change on the ecosystems she had been working in. In 2021 Kylie became of member of MREA and in early 2022, joined the staff at OnSite Energy Inc - a Montana based solar design and installation company. She currently serves as the Sales Manager for OnSite Energy, where she enjoys helping her clients reach their energy goals.


Brian Solan, P.E.

A Montana native, Brian manages the business development efforts for Ameresco, Inc. - an international Energy Services Company and Clean Tech Integrator. Ameresco focuses on Energy Savings Performance Contracting, Renewable Energy and Microgrid development, construction, and operation. Brian is a registered Professional Engineer, located in Helena, MT and has been working in energy conservation and renewable construction market for the past 22+ years. He’s a Mechanical Engineering graduate of Montana Tech and has advocated for efficiency and renewables in the Northwest throughout his career.

Brian has an extensive non-profit volunteer background and currently serves on the Helena Citizen Conservation Board as well as being the Executive Director for the Montana Wild Sheep Foundation (a wildlife conservation organization). An avid outdoorsman, conservationist, mountain hunter and family man, Brian spends his free time in the backcountry and coaching youth sports in Helena.


Shannon James

Shannon is a recent graduate of the University of Montana Environmental Studies masters program. She holds a B.S. in Natural Resource Conservation and a minor in Climate Change Studies from the University of Montana. After working as an educator, Shannon transitioned her work back to the environmental sector, serving as the Native American Lands Rights and Wildlife/Lands Organizing Fellow for the Montana Chapter of the Sierra Club and more recently as the Climate & Campaigns Organizer for the Montana Environmental Information Center. Her diverse background in teaching complex concepts, community organizing, and analyzing policy informs her unwavering commitment to decarbonization and addressing the climate crisis.


Sarah Stands

Born and raised in Livingston, Montana, Sarah is an alumni of UofM and began a career in renewable energy and low carbon development in 2009. She holds a Masters in Sustainable Development Planning and Management and is interested in equitable access and supporting a socially and environmentally just energy transition. A majority of her work has focused on utility/commercial-scale independent power producers in sub-Saharan Africa, consulting to international market entrants, developers/operators, and development institutions with special references to meaningful job creation, skills development, gender equality and rural development. Some of the projects Sarah has worked on include job creation and skills development analysis; community needs assessments; structuring economic development plans for private-public-partnerships; identifying regional socio-economic development good practice; and creating gender and diversity strategies for the global sustainable energy sector. She has previously worked with industry associations, such as the South African Wind Energy Association and South African PV Association – and is currently a member of the Global Women’s Network of the Energy Transition, the Yellowstone Bend Citizen’s Council of the Northern Plains Resource Council, Montana Matriarch’s Grant Committee, and sits on the City of Livingston’s Parks and Trails Committee.


Staff

Makenna Sellers, Executive Director

Makenna became the Executive Director of MREA in 2022 after earning degrees in Environmental Studies and Sustainable Business from Gonzaga University, where she pioneered the university's first composting and recycling program. Prior to MREA, she championed workplace improvements for nurses in southwest Montana and served as a clean energy organizer at Northern Plains Resource Council. While Northern Plains, she worked alongside a coalition to pass state enabling C-PACE legislation, a pivotal tool for energy-efficient commercial and multi-family development. Makenna was selected for the 2023 Emerging Clean Energy Leaders Award by the Northwest Energy Coalition. In her free time she enjoys trail running with the dog and performing with ensembles like the Helena Symphony Chorale.

Contact Makenna at (406) 214-9405 or Makenna@MontanaRenewables.org