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5 Solar Energy CEOs to Watch in the Middle Market


With a growing interest in and need for alternative energy solutions, more and more companies are sprouting up in the middle market dedicated to solar.

For the 2016 Growth 100, highlighting the most innovative and interesting middle market CEOs, we featured five business owners running successful solar companies at various stages of growth.

Jon Sader, Solar RAQ

Jon saw a problem that needed fixing — and a few years later, his company Solar RAQ was born. A universal solar mounting system, the RAQ fits “just about any solar panel,” says Jon. He compares the difference between his invention and the old mounting process to that between a cardboard folding table and an IKEA desk. The RAQ unfolds, locks into position immediately, and easily aligns with roof rafters.

“The technology difference between existing racking for solar and our racking is comparative to the difference between a pager and a cell phone,” says Jon. The data backs him up: The National Renewable Energy Lab recently tested the Solar RAQ and found it to be 76% faster than other systems. Read more >

Pankaj Desai, Sonali Solar

As a second generation family-owned business, Sonali Solar is a cross-continental manufacturer of photovoltaic modules (solar panels) serving customers across the U.S., Asia-Pacific, and European markets.

Pankaj Desai, CEO of Sonali, helped get the business off the ground in the peak of the financial crisis. While they intended to start the business in the U.S., conditions required they reconsider their launch strategy. Taking the business overseas, they set up their first facility in India. Today there are 150 employees in that plant. The panels they produce are used in power plants, on rooftops, as well for additional commercial and battery charging applications.

Read more >

Troy Helming, Pristine Sun

Troy Helming may have an unusual childhood chore to thank for his current role as a clean energy evangelist and entrepreneur. Troy, the co-founder and CEO of Pristine Sun, a full service renewable energy company focused on developing small utility-scale solar farms, grew up in Kansas in a house whose furnace and water was heated by solar panels – needless to say, a highly unusual arrangement for the Midwest in the 1980s. His dad tasked him with maintenance of the system.

While Troy dabbled in a variety of other careers — he was a cheerleading champion in college, a runway model, and a telecom executive and founder, among other roles — that experience stuck with him. When he was first starting his career, Troy says, there weren’t really any obvious opportunities for someone to enter the renewable or clean energy sector. But in 1998, he read an article about the potential of wind turbines in three states – Kansas, Texas and North Dakota – to power the entire country. Read more >

Gerald Falbel, Optical Energy Technologies

Gerald Falbel has been using his own roof as a testing ground for his solar innovations since 1960. With a background in aerospace, he was an early mover to the trend of outfitting a residential space with solar energy.

Today, Gerald has grown his early experiments into a business with customers in both Connecticut and New Mexico. His technologies enable both electricity and hot water solar systems to be installed for residential use.

“Unlike most of the solar systems that you find that look like postage stamps on the roof, mine doesn’t have an aesthetic problem,” Gerald says. His installations look like skylights. Read more >

Patrick Murphy, Gridless Power

Patrick’s portable batteries have been put to the test by military customers and in catastrophic events such as Hurricane Sandy. Today, Gridless Power has commercially available products sold through third parties. Starting out with state and local customers has yielded a scaling model they can support. “We’re staying laser-focused on disaster response,” he says. Over time, they will start to expand into more commercial uses such as events and construction rentals. Read more >

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