WSU Biographies

Michelle Knox, Founder

Welcome to my website! I am the founder and owner of WindSolarUSA, Inc., a turn-key renewable energy company located in Central Illinois. I began research and development of WSU in September of 2008 with a goal of helping the residential, commercial, and agricultural markets to invest in their own clean energy future while attaining a desired level of self-sufficiency. The decision to embark on my renewable energy career was made after a friend asked, “I wonder if I could invest in a solar system and then have that system pay for itself and eventually be paying me to keep it?” This question was very intriguing and I began researching to find the answer. The good news is that the answer is “YES”!

I received my training through the Midwest Renewable Energy Association in Custer, WI and am a Certified Site Assessor for both solar photovoltaics and solar thermal. I’m presently finishing the requirements to obtain the same certification for wind and recently completed coursework to obtain an additional certificate for PV Design and Technical Sales. WSU has developed multiple photovoltaic projects ranging in size from 1kW to 120kW as well as several wind projects. I have written and been awarded multiple grants from USDA Rural Development’s Rural Energy for American Program (REAP) as well as the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation.

Prior to pursuing a career in renewable energy, I was the Development Director (fundraiser/grant writer) for a private, east-side elementary school in Springfield serving underprivileged children and their families, and previous to that, a Montessori teacher of 6-9-year-olds for ten years. I am an advocate and promoter of renewable education and hope to use my teaching and fundraising skills to further the advancement of the solar market statewide through my affiliation with the Illinois Solar Energy Association (ISEA) for which I served on the board from January of 2013 – December 2016. As a Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) Registered Training Provider, I am training students to be site assessors, designers and PV sales representatives.

I am a long-time resident of the Village of Owaneco , where I have served on the Village Board for 15 years and have written and been awarded a USDA Community Facilities Grant for an early warning siren and helped to organize the charge to raise funds to save the community’s historical gym built in 1927. I am married to my husband, Jim, and have a daughter, Mikella, and a stepson Corey.

Blake Chausse, Project Manager/Sales Consultant

Blake Chausse began his career at WindSolarUSA, Inc. (WSU) in the summer of 2014 as a paid intern. He continued his internship throughout his senior year at Illinois State University in Bloomington where he ultimately obtained a bachelor's degree in Renewable Energy in May of 2015. Upon graduation, he accepted a full-time position with WSU in June and continued his personal development as an industry professional.

Blake is skilled at every facet needed to develop a renewable energy project including: performing site assessments, completing system design, providing an accurate product quote, preparing detailed financial analyses of system performance, product procurement and project management.

When WSU launched its LED Lighting Division in the spring of 2015, Blake was trained on LED products and the auditing process. Today he is the lead LED auditor for WSU responsible for accurately notating clients' existing lighting and completing thorough interviews to properly notate client needs and expectations for preparation/implementation of a custom lighting solution.

WSU is pleased to have this young professional as part of the team helping to advance renewable energy and energy efficiency in the state of Illinois!

Kara Blankenship, Office Manager/Sales Consultant

Kara Blankenship joined the WindSolarUSA team in August of 2016 and has been a most welcomed addition. Kara comes from an office management background and brought with her excellent organizational and communication skills that serve as a great compliment to our team.

While working on completing solar training through the MREA, Kara has already mastered on-the- job training including becoming well versed on power bill analysis, system sizing and completing array projections to give our customers an aerial view of what their system will look like. Taking it a few steps further, she prepares cost models that show the financial performance of the proposed system over its lifetime, arranges presentations and meets with customers to present their proposals. Once the sale is made, she handles completion of all utility net metering/interconnection and permit applications to make going solar hassle-free for our customers.

Kara is an ambitious young professional looking to become a leader in the renewable industry - one that WindSolarUSA is proud to have as part of our team!