Advisory Board members keep sun shining in Pennsylvania

By Solar United Neighbors on December 22, 2023

A furniture maker, a scuba diver, an organizer, an attorney, a podcast host, a science teacher, a Rhodes Scholar, and a micropaleontologist walk into a bar. No, it’s not the start of a joke, it’s a meeting of SUN’s Pennsylvania Advisory Board.

“Pennsylvania is such a diverse state with a deep history of energy leadership,” said Advisory Board member Brent Groce. “I’d love to help push us back towards the front of the pack. It’s clearly going to take a statewide effort and SUN is well-positioned for that.”

The Board provides strategic input to help SUN grow our community of solar supporters in the Keystone State. Members have taken many steps to spread the sunshine in Pennsylvania. This includes contacting their elected officials, speaking at community events, and sharing their experiences about going solar.

“It’s great to bridge academic research on solar adoption and implementation and insights from people on the ground on opportunities and challenges in solar adoption and on their support for stronger policy to shift to solar,” said Advisory Board member Shanti Gamper-Rabindran.

Rick Bloom

Rick and his wife decided to give up their original oil furnace and switch to a ground-source heat pump in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint a decade ago. Then, about seven years ago, as they watched the price of solar panels fall and net metering spread. They decided that the next practical step was to install a solar array on their small barn. Both systems have worked extremely well. Rick and his wife are proud of these accomplishments and try to educate others on the practical benefits of saving energy and using solar generated electricity.

Rick is a retired high school science teacher. As a science teacher, Rick educated his students on practical ways to help our environment and save money. He holds a master’s degree in biology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Rick is an avid canoeist, bicyclist, hiker, hunter and amateur naturalist.

Shanti Gamper-Rabindran, Ph.D.

Shanti Gamper-Rabindran is a Professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA) and Department of Economics at the University of Pittsburgh. Her book America’s Energy Gamble details how political, financial, and legal institutions entrench fossil fuel dependency and hinder the adoption of renewable energy. It also shows how the average American can overcome this status quo to support the energy transition.

Shanti received the University of Pittsburgh’s Faculty Award on Sustainability for her contributions to research, teaching and service on sustainability. She serves on the advisory board of the Ohio River Valley Institute, which works on the Just Transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

She holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an M.Sc. in Environmental Management, a B.A. in Jurisprudence from Oxford University where she was a Rhodes scholar. She also holds an AB in Economic and Environmental Science & Public Policy from Harvard College.

Brent Groce

Brent is a faithful member of the Pennsylvania  Solar Policy Action Team. He has volunteered for SUN by giving presentations at Earth Day events, rallying for Pennsylvania to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in Philadelphia, and lobbying his representatives for pro-solar policies.

Brent trained as a Mechanical Engineer. He also earned a graduate business degree in International Business. He has worked in a variety of fields, including telecom product marketing, non-profit financial manager, furniture maker, middle and high school math teacher. Brent has also held a wide range of positions in a solar installation company.

Arundhati “Tinku” Khanwalkar

Tinku Khanwalkar is a retired environmental attorney with over 30 years of experience in the electric utility industry.  She is passionate about taking action with respect to climate change. She established a company (Energy 18H) dedicated to the commercialization of liquid hydrogen fuel cell technology.

She  is a member of the Allentown Environmental Advisory Council. The Council has been working with the City on several sustainability initiatives, including climate action initiatives and energy equity.  She also serves on the board of Lehigh Valley Public Media.

Sue Shoemaker, Ph.D.

Sue went solar through SUN’s first Pennsylvania solar co-op in 2018. She then joined the Pennsylvania Solar Policy Action Team. She previously owned a dive store and realizes the potential for solar power in benefitting both businesses and private homeowners.

Sue is an avid scuba diver and diving instructor. She was honored for her long tenure as a diver with initiation into the Women Divers Hall of Fame in 2000. She has traveled around the world surveying reef systems.

She is also a retired Professor Emerita of Biology. Sue taught at Saint Francis University for the last 24 years. She was Coordinator for the Marine Biology program and worked with many students on environmental issues involving aquatic systems. With Global Warming causing much damage on the coral reefs, Sue stressed the need to find ecosystem friendly energy solutions to all her students.

Bill Spohn

Bill and his wife built a high-performance, modular home in 2020 and have achieved NetZero energy using on-site solar (details at He works with SUN & his solar provider to get the word out at local events to get consumers to better understand their choices for the responsible use of energy.

Bill is the president and owner of This is a web store for high-tech tools used to ensure energy efficiency in homes and buildings. Using his background as a mechanical engineer and his leadership role in the HVAC and building performance industries, he regularly teaches and writes on technically complex topics, including building science, healthy homes, indoor air quality, weatherization, and HVACR.

He is also working with a start-up aiming to help contractors help homeowners with their electrification plans nationwide ( Read more about Bill at:

Bill hosts the Building HVAC Science Podcast and the RESTalk podcast for, the Home Energy Rating organization.

Jonathan Warnock, Ph.D.

Jonathan and his partner Alex went solar as participants of the 2018 Indiana County Solar Co-op. He is an assistant professor in the Department of Geoscience and Co-Director of Sustainability Studies at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. A native Chicagoan, Jonathan moved to Pennsylvania after graduate school. As a marine micropaleontologist he uses fossil algae to understand ice/ocean interactions in Antarctic coastal waters and the Baltic Sea over the past 25 million years.

A ‘dinosaur kid’ his whole life, Jonathan also researches late-Jurassic ecology at the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry in central Utah. He lives with his partner Alex, an avid gardener and aspiring urban farmer.

Betsy Whitman

Betsy and her husband Dave went solar in June 2023 as a member of the SUN Centre County Solar and EV Charger Co-op. She’s always organizing something – from Rails to Trails in D.C., Earth Day ‘90 in Philadelphia, native plant sales in State College. She’s run campaigns for school board, township supervisors, state house representatives, a district judge, and parts of the 2016 presidential campaign across Pennsylvania for NextGen Climate.

Betsy has taught kids from 2 to 82; written for Ranger Rick books, “Learning Magazine,” and newsletters for the Sierra Club; and raised two wonderful daughters. Betsy is currently a township supervisor and chair of the State College area government’s Climate and Sustainability Committee.