The Role of Solar Power in Rural Development


Date Thursday August 12th 2004
Time 4:00-5:00pm
Venue George E. Pake Auditorium

PARC Forum

This talk will provide an overview of the impact of solar power as one of several successful tools for sustainable development. Multiple examples from the field will provide a perspective on the key elements of opportunity needed for self-replicating growth and prosperity.


Charlie Gay is the co-founder of Greenstar, a company that delivers solar power to villages in the developing world. His expertise includes solar cell manufacturing and international business.

He began his industrial career in 1975 designing solar power system components for communications satellites at Spectrolab, Inc. a subsidiary of Hughes Aircraft Co. He joined ARCO Solar in 1978 where he established the research and development program, and was project leader for the commercialization single crystal silicon wafer technology from laboratory to mass production. He served in various leadership positions ranging from Director of Research to President of the company.

In 1990 he became President and Chief Operating Officer of Siemens Solar Industries where he was responsible for increasing company sales into 110 countries and expanding the development of thin film solar technology to three continents.

From 1995 to 1997, Gay served as Director of the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory. NREL is the world's leading laboratory for energy efficiency and renewable energy research and technology. His responsibilities included management of an annual budget of more than $235 million and 1,000 employees.

In 1998, Dr. Gay served as President and Chief Executive Officer of ASE Americas, the third largest solar cell manufacturer in the United States. He was responsible for commercializing silicon ribbon as a starting material in the manufacture of photovoltaic solar panels. The success of this has led to the establishing the world's largest factory for solar cell production at 60 megawatts in size.

Charlie Gay co-founded Greenstar in late 1998, a company that develops multi-function solar-powered community centers in small villages in the developing world. He serves as President of Greenstar Foundation, and as a senior executive with Greenstar Corporation, which develops, distributes and licenses digital products produced by people in these solar villages. Greenstar communities, which deliver solar power, wireless communications, health, education and environment resources in an integrated package, include the West Bank, Jamaica, India and Ghana, with new sites planned for Tibet and Brazil. Dr. Gay has personally supervised much of the design and field work connected with this program, which has been recognized for its innovation by the World Bank, the Stockholm Challenge, the Technology Empowerment Network and the Tech Innovation Awards.

Dr. Gay has a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of California, Riverside. He is holder of numerous patents for solar cell and module construction and winner of the Gold Medal for Achievement from the World Renewable Energy Congress.

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