WSU Biographies

Michelle Knox, Founder

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. In addition, I have completed 200 photovoltaic projects ranging in size from 1kW to 156kW, multiple LED lighting upgrades for commercial businesses and non-profits and several wind and solar pool heating projects.  I have written and been awarded multiple grants from USDA Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG), as well as the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation to fund 1kW+ educational solar installations to (13) schools across the state of IL, a children's museum and a zoo.

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 continue to use my teaching and fundraising skills to further the advancement of the solar market statewide through my work/affiliation with Illinois Solar Energy Association (ISEA) to which I served on the Board of Directors from January of 2013 - December of 2016. During that time I fostered a training program for Southern IL electricians to gain Distributed Generation Certification that is required to be able to install solar in our state. I am an adjunct instructor for Lincoln Land Community College offering Introduction to Solar Photovoltaics and PV Site Assessment classes twice per year, an active member of the Downstate Caucus, which is a division of the IL Climate Table that represents Central and Southern IL environmental interests, and serve on the Board of Directors of Sustainable Springfield, Inc.

Proud achievements include the formation/leadership of the Solar Business Coalition (SBC), a group of solar developers and installers in Central and Southern IL, that assisted in the legal battles against ComEd to ensure that municipal and rural cooperative customers remained eligible for solar funding opportunities. I also provided education, drafting, introduction and assistance with the final passage of a Net Metering Ordinance in the City of Springfield, returning good solar policy to our capital city. WSUSA, and its partners, worked with Habitat for Humanity of Sangamon County in 2019 to solarize four new homes at no cost to the families that now occupy them. In 2020, we successfully engaged in the effort to return net metering to Ameren Illinois customers.

I am a long-time resident of the Village of Owaneco , where I have served on the Village Board for 15 years during which time I wrote and was 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, a stepson, Corey, and an adorable grandson, Harry.

Kara Blankenship, Office Manager/Sales Consultant

Kara Blankenship joined the WindSolarUSA team in August of 2016 and was quickly promoted to WSUSA Office Manager in June of 2017! 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.

Having completed solar training through the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, 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 contracting, product procurement, completion of all utility net metering/interconnection, as well as permit and renewable energy credit applications to make going solar hassle-free for our customers.

She is a long-time resident of the Village of Illiopolis where she currently resides with her fiancé and two daughters. 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!