Solar thermal equipment developer, eSolar, has found a new chief executive from chip giant Texas Instruments.
John Van Scoter, who was in charge of TI's alternative energy strategy, is set to start his new job at eSolar on Feb. 1, 2010. Van Scoter shepherded the chipmaker's sales in the smart grid, solar and wind markets worldwide.
Solar companies have historically turned to the chip industry for leaders to rescue or expand their businesses. MiaSole hired Joseph Laia, an executive from KLA-Tencor, to be its CEO in 2007. First Solar hired Bruce Sohn, formerly with Intel, to be its president in 2007. Chris Gronet founded Solyndra in 2005 after spending 11 years at chip factory equipment maker, Applied Materials.
Van Scoter will succeed Bill Gross, who founded the company and took over the helm over the past year. Gross set out to remake the company. He was looking at selling up to 10 percent of the company, and later announced a change of business plan for the startup.
Instead of developing its own solar thermal power plants, the Pasadena, Calif.-based eSolar would focus largely on selling equipment for building those power plants, at least in the United States.
The company, founded in 2007, lined up an investor in NRG Energy, which paid $10 million for a stake in eSolar and for taking over its unfinished power plant projects.
eSolar has licensed its technology to companies outside of the U.S. It did so with Acme Group, an Indian company that also invested $30 million in eSolar. In October, eSolar said it would hire Clean Energy Solutions in Johannesburg to run its sales and distribution operation in seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including South Africa, Bostwana and Namibia.
eSolar hit a big milestone when it completed a 5-megawatt power plant that it had started before the change in its business plan. The company debut the Sierra SunTower plant on 20 acres in Lancaster, Calif. in August, and is selling the electricity from the plant to Southern California Edison.
The company's technology makes use of flat mirrors to concentrate and direct the sunlight to heat water for producing steam, which is then piped to a turbine for electricity generation.
The company will count on Van Scoter to executive the plans it put in place with new investors and partnerships.
Van Scoter worked for TI for 25 years. Aside from overseeing the chip company's greentech business, he also oversaw the commercialization of digital light processing technology, which is used for making high-definition televisions and projectors.
Van Scoter holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Vermont. He sits on the board of Tyco Electronics.