“I was there at the end. I went to work one morning. There were no cars in the parking lot. My badge didn’t work. On the other side of the building, a media circus was going on.” Pete Gibson used to work for Solyndra, the solar energy company that went bankrupt in 2011 and defaulted on a $535 million loan guaranteed by the Department of Energy. The default provided highly publicized fodder for Republican critics of Obama’s $80 billion clean technology program. Four years have passed since the supposed scandal. No prosecutions were made. No evidence linked the energy loans to Obama campaign contributors; In fact, the clean energy loan program has turned a profit, though the media won’t give such good news much attention.
Being on the inside, Pete Gibson saw how a domestic solar panel manufacturer, even with federal loan guarantees, could not compete against China once the Asian behemoth decided to produce solar panels, undercut the market, let the competition fail and then dominate the market. Which is exactly what has occurred. The six largest solar panel manufacturers in the world are in China.
But Pete, a Berkeley trained chemical engineer who was an environmental consultant and worked at Seagate prior to Solyndra, doesn’t dwell on that anymore. Four years is ancient history for a guy who’s worked at Avaya and then Oclaro and now Imerya since Solyndra failed. There are plenty of jobs in Silicon Valley, but permanence is in short supply. “I want to work for a company that has a positive impact, but I’d like more stability.”
Pete’s been at Imergy for eighteen months; it’s a good fit with his skills and social concerns. Imergy makes high capacity, large-scale commercial batteries. The units are 4’x6’x6’high. An initial application has been providing back-up power to cell towers throughout India. The batteries can be charged from an electric grid or solar panels. Although there is some power loss during transfer, Imergy’s batteries have zero power loss between charges. “Every product that has appeal needs a specific advantage. Ours is continual life because there is no loss in the reaction.”
I hope that this continual life transfers to a continual job for Pete, at least as long as he wants one.
How will we live tomorrow?
“The big concern about us and our planet is population as the root cause for sustainability. Population control is vacant from the conversation. China’s strategy for managing population is a model the rest of the world should investigate. Curbing birthrates is far preferred to decreasing population through wars and disease. As population and density increase, we all feel less connected to our community.
“We are being more and more isolated. Isolation allows us to be manipulated and controlled. The result is that we don’t trust each other.”