Meet The Fellows: SI2 Expands Again

This month, we announced the hiring of two new team members, Tiana Elame and Marilla Smith, to be SI2’s first Fellows. Tiana and Marilla will work closely with Executive Director David Gahl and Assistant Director of Development Sarah Conley-Ballew to conduct clean energy research and analysis that accelerates the clean energy transition.

We interviewed both of our Fellows to see why they’re excited about joining the clean energy revolution.

But first, their bios:

Tiana Elame is an environmental science professional with experience in public engagement initiatives for federal agencies, conservation research development for state departments, and sustainable project management for private construction firms. Tiana possesses a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Science from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and she is currently a graduate student at Duke University where she is obtaining a Masters in Environmental Management with a concentration in leadership.

Marilla has a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Science and is pursuing a Masters in Environmental Science and Sustainability from Loyola University Chicago with a concentration in environmental law and policy. At Loyola, she performs research on utility-scale solar policy and social acceptance in the Midwest, and she previously interned with Clean Wisconsin, a Madison-based environmental nonprofit.

Now for the interview.

What was your favorite sunrise/sunset you’ve ever seen?

Marilla: I go to school along Lake Michigan on the Chicago side, so usually it’s the sunrises that stand out, but it’s also the location of my favorite sunset. The sky was a pink-purple-orange so saturated it felt like I was walking through it, instead of just staying in the sky above me and across the lake.

Tiana: It was a sunset in Labadee, Haiti. There we so many pinks, purples, blues wrapped with the color orange.

What made you interested in the clean energy space?

Marilla: Clean energy seems like one of the best ways to reduce carbon emissions, which is what drew me and my problem-solving proclivities towards it initially. I have done research on utility-scale solar in the Midwest for several years through my university, as well as while interning for an environmental nonprofit in Wisconsin, and both of those experiences have only amplified my interest.

Tiana: Clean energy is the way of the future. I am excited to be a part of that.

What’s the worst sunburn you’ve ever gotten?

Tiana: On a bike ride in Ubud, Bali. I thought I used enough sunblock… but I was so wrong!

Marilla: I can’t remember – probably sometime when I was small. I’m pretty good about sunscreen these days.

What are you looking forward to working on in your fellowship with SI2?

Marilla: All of SI2’s projects seem so interesting! I’m interested in the agrivoltaics project because I have some background knowledge on agrivoltaics and want to learn more, and I’m interested in the interconnection project because I DON’T have much background knowledge and want to learn more.

Tiana: I’m looking forward to expanding my network within the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) community as well as conducting research for the Solar and Storage Industries Institute (SI2), as solar energy storage is critical to ensuring that America is a climate-ready nation.

What would be the coolest thing you hope to be powered by solar someday?

Marilla: One day, entire cities.

Tiana: A hoverboard powered by the sun would be awesome!

What’s your favorite show at the moment?

Marilla: I just finished watching Lockwood & Co on Netflix and enjoyed it! Sad it’s not getting another season.

Tiana: Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story.


About the Solar and Storage Industries Institute:

The Solar and Storage Industries Institute (SI2) is accelerating the transition to carbon-free electricity through clean energy research and analysis. SI2 aims to use policy research, public education initiatives, and direct outreach to policymakers to explain the benefits of clean energy and develop pathways to widespread solar and storage use. SI2 is the charitable and education arm of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and is a 501(c)3 nonprofit. For more information, visit and follow SI2 on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.