McKinstry’s Paulo Candiani on Advancing Energy Generation in the Built Environment

“It feels like I’m watching a movie as my life unfolds around me, and it’s a dream come true. I’ve been thinking about solutions for the future of energy generation for a big part of my life, and over these last two years, I’m not just building it, the market is interested in it.”

Paulo Candiani is an operations manager for our Distributed Energy Resource (DER) team and has been with McKinstry for a little over 2 and a half years. Learn more about Paulo and his leadership in advancing energy generation in the built environment.

Learn More About Paulo’s Experience

What is your role at McKinstry? What’s been your career journey?

I’ve been with McKinstry for a little over two and a half years as part of the EcoDistrict Services team. I started on the Distributed Energy Resource (DER) team as our senior project manager and was recently promoted to operations manager — Energy.

In my day to day at McKinstry, I lead a team of seven people focused on the construction of solar and battery storage projects, either through direct project management or collaborating with project managers to ensure the work meets our clients’ expectations and is completed safely, on budget and on time. This work includes client interface, subcontractor engagement, defining best practices for the DER construction team, coaching and mentoring team members and strategizing with leadership.

As far as how I developed an interest in my field, I would say that deep down in my heart, I’m just a tree hugger. We live in a challenging world, and our generation is standing on a cliff environmentally. I have a deep curiosity for how things work, which drew me to construction, and I love building things. I’ve always had a natural aptitude for construction and electricity, and with my passion for environmentalism, my skill sets took me to renewable energy. I want to improve the world, or at least make a small difference to make it a better place.

What does success look like in your role?

For me, true success is not individual success; it’s watching my teammates or the people I manage grow, learn new things and be successful on their own. Some of that is nerve-wracking because you have to balance managing a project while also letting go and facilitating an environment where people can feed their curiosity, knowledge and self-esteem. That way, they can be the best version of themselves.

What is the most rewarding thing about your work?

Leading, mentoring and coaching my teammates. When you foster the best sides of people and encourage them to learn and grow, allowing them to do that and progress as humans, that’s extremely fulfilling to me.

Within your area of expertise, what are the changes you see happening that impact either our industry or the work you do?

In the DER team, we’re seeing a shift toward commercial power generation. There are so many giant factories and warehouses with large rooftops around the country, and a lot of people are considering how they can maximize that space with rooftop solar panels or, in the next iteration, battery storage.

Right now, battery storage projects are expensive, but I think there’s a good chance pricing will level off in the future and we’ll see more and more battery storage in cities. The hope, and what’s starting to happen in some markets, is that battery storage systems can be used to balance demand on electrical grids while also allowing us to implement more alternative energy sources like wind and solar. Things are slowly changing, and the future is bright.

What change do you hope to inspire through your work at McKinstry?

What we’re doing in the DER team is the future of what energy generation will look like for the next 50-100 years, not just in the United States but in the world. In the past, we generated power by building massive power plants in rural areas, disturbing pristine soils away from where most people would see them, but that work disturbs wildlife habitats. The work we do now provides an alternative: building solar farms and battery storage in the middle of the city, where most of the power is being consumed.

It feels like I’m watching a movie as my life unfolds around me, and it’s a dream come true. I’ve been thinking about solutions for the future of energy generation for a big part of my life, and over these last two years, I’m not just building it, the market is interested in it.

When you look at our four values, which one resonates with you the most and why?

Be Constantly Curious. At a young age, I told myself I wanted to learn something new every day. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve doubled down on that. If I’m not learning new things, what’s the point? For me, being truly alive means staying curious and learning new things. You might think you’ve learned as much as you can and think you know everything, but staying curious is the only way we can make progress. It’s human nature to be curious, but it’s also human nature to get set in our ways. Staying curious breeds innovation, and without it, we wouldn’t be able to change the energy matrix in the United States.

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