Change Makers

Powering – and Empowering – Communities

Gilbert Campbell standing on roof at Howard University among solar panels

Volt Energy CEO and Howard alumnus Gilbert Campbell talks about environmental justice, diversity and inclusion, and solar panels.

Gilbert Campbell (B.B.A. ’01) is an entrepreneur who co-founded and currently serves as CEO of Volt Energy, a minority-owned renewable energy firm that finances, builds and operates solar projects that reduce energy costs and carbon emissions – including at Howard, a project that was completed in the Fall of 2020. Volt’s mission is to uplift communities through the opportunities and benefits afforded by clean energy.

Q: How did Volt come about?

A: I co-founded Volt Energy with Antonio Francis (B.S.’01), a good friend and classmate from my days at Howard University. We had a vision to start a company that would have a positive social impact and create a legacy. Solar naturally was a good fit for both of those reasons.

Q: Volt seems to be more than just about installing solar panels and car-charging stations, but about environmental justice, too. Why is that important, and what are you doing in that area?

A: Environmental justice is definitely an area that I’m passionate about because it’s deeply entwined with racial justice. Communities of color have been disproportionately victimized by environmental hazards, discriminatory environmental policy, and are far more likely to live in areas with heavy pollution.

At Volt, we are trying to reverse these injustices by building clean non-polluting solar plants in our communities. I’ve also testified before Congress on this issue.

Q: Volt is also focused on diversity and inclusion. Can you tell us more about that?

A: I think it’s only fair for the frontline communities that have been impacted the most by climate change to benefit from the new clean energy economy. The clean energy industry has a lot of room for improvement as it pertains to diversity and inclusion, but I’m optimistic because the industry recognizes it and is taking action.

I’m actively involved on several boards that are focused on addressing diversity and inclusion issues, including the Solar Energy Industries Association and the American Association of Blacks in Energy. I’m also a founding member of Renewables Forward, a collective of clean energy CEOs committed to diversity and inclusion.

Q: How did Volt and Howard’s partnership start? What was it like to work with the students who were involved?

A: Our partnership with Howard began with conversations about solar opportunities with Howard’s sustainability director, Chip Chisholm, over seven years ago. Howard has a special place in my heart, and it’s truly a blessing to be doing purposeful work at my Alma Mater.

Howard students deeply care about sustainability and environmental justice issues. It’s a high growth industry, and I hope to create a good example for the students to consider careers in my industry.

Q: What’s next for Volt, expansion-wise?

A: Volt has expanded its capabilities and is currently in the process of developing utility-scale solar farms for several Fortune 500 corporations. This is a huge growth area for our company, along with developing community solar and energy storage projects that have a community benefit. Our long-term plan is to become a full-scale clean energy company and to expand internationally.