A farewell to two early solar lions

The modern solar industries began in the 1970’s, and today’s solar industry owes much gratitude to those who opened the door to renewable energy. In this theme we bid farewell to a pair of astoundingly great solar pioneers.

Scott Sklar, The Stella Group

With a heavy heart, I write a farewell to not only two astoundingly great solar pioneers, but of two especially close friends and mentors. It may be hard for many of you to imagine that the modern solar industries began in the 1970’s, and we owe gratitude to those who opened the door to renewable energy at a period when no one would believe the size of the solar industries of today.

Walter J. Hesse, 84, died suddenly Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009, at his ranch in Cooke County. In 1983, Dr. Hesse founded Entech Inc., now known as Entech Solar, a high-technology concentrated solar energy company. At the time of his death, he was actively serving the firm as CEO emeritus and board member. Walter with his colleagues at E-Systems bought their solar technology of concentrated solar utilizing a fresnel lens atop solar troughs focusing on a strip of especially doped photovoltaics. In July 1982, Entech Inc. installed a hybrid PV electrical/solar thermal concentrator system (27 kW electric/140 kWe thermal) at the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas Airport that provided electricity to the airport and hot water for a 300-room airport hotel.

Dr. Hesse earned a BSME (1944), MSME (1948) and Ph.D. (1951) from Purdue University. Additionally, he studied at the U.S. Naval Academy where he was commissioned ensign (1944), U.S. Navy Reserve; attended U.S. Navy Submarine Officers School; University of California, nuclear engineering; and Sandia National Laboratories, nuclear weapons. During World War II, he served as an assistant engineer and electrical officer on board the submarine USS Blenny. From 1949 to 1955, he held the position of chief engineer and chief academic instructor at the Test Pilot School, U.S. Naval Air Test Center at Patuxent River, Md., where four of the original seven astronauts were his students. He served as senior management for several defense-related companies including as vice president of the Energy Technology Center at E-Systems (1977-1983). He is survived by his wife Mary and his children and grandchildren.

Ishaq M. Shahryar passed away on Sunday evening, April 12, 2009. Mr. Shahryar was well known in the solar industry as the successful founder of the PV company Solec International. The New Scientist magazine titled him “The Sun King.” Shahryar who was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, came to the United States in 1956 on a scholarship to study at the University of California Berkeley and the University of California Santa Barbara where he received his BA in Physical Chemistry and his Master’s in International Relations. He worked as a solar engineer for aerospace companies. Shahryar invented a lower-cost solar (photovoltaic) cell in 1972 and developed the process for modern day screen-printing (or mass-producing) of cells used in solar energy modules. He was instrumental in the development of ultraviolet sensitive solar cells for the Jupiter Project for NASA and in 1993, he was awarded U.S. patent rights for a 20 percent efficient silicon solar cell.

In 2002, the former Afghan King Mohammad Zahir Shah asked Mr. Shahryar to represent his homeland, which he accepted becoming the first Afghan Ambassador to the United States since 1978. His Excellency, Ambassador Shahryar served pro bono and also invested much of his own money in the Washington, DC embassy. After serving as Ambassador, Mr. Shahryar returned to California to start a new solar company, Sun King Solar. He is survived by his wife, Hafizah, son, Alexander, and daughter, Jahan.

Walt Hesse, aside from being a pioneer of concentrated solar photovoltaics and thermal, had an unabiding passion for a renewable energy future and worked hard to set the stage for all clean energy technologies in the renewable energy portfolio. Likewise, Ishaq Shahryar consistently promoted the breadth of solar technologies noting that each technology-type had its unique market attributes. Both men saw themselves as part of a quilt of technologies that would address humankinds’ problems and both men had a deep humility and respect for their peers and all the clean energy solutions.

I first met Ishaq in 1978 and Walt in 1982 when I was an energy aide in the U.S. Senate. They inspired me and when I joined SEIA in 1984, they worked tirelessly to build a unified solar industry for all the solar technologies and in concert with all the clean energy community. So when you read about the new solar manufacturing plants and large solar installations, keep in mind that it took decades of commitment by hundreds of technical, business and policy people facing immense skepticism to get where we are. And I hope you send some good thoughts to these two great pioneers and others who helped pave the way. Adios my dear, dear friends.

Scott Sklar is president of The Stella Group, Ltd., a strategic marketing and policy firm for clean distributed energy users and companies and lives in a solar home in Arlington and both his VA and DC office buidings have solar, Virginia. His coauthored book: The Forbidden Fuel, and A Consumer Guide to Solar Energy, was re-released for its third printing. A frequent contributor to RenewableEnergyWorld.com, Sklar serves as steering committee chair of the Sustainable Energy Coalition, composed of the renewable energy and energy efficiency trade associations and analytical groups, and sits on the national Boards of Directors of the non-profit Business Council for Sustainable Energy, Renewable Energy Policy Project, and CoChairs the Policy Committee of the Sustainable Buildings Industry Council.

This article was originally published by RenewableEnergyworld.com.


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