Sen. Williams, Entrepreneurs Tour GT Solar Startup

October 10, 2010

On Friday, October 1st, a delegation of Georgia Tech guests learned firsthand how the Institute takes science and technology research from the lab bench to the marketplace. Accompanied by President and Mrs. Peterson, Georgia State Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams (R-Lyons) and three entrepreneurs from South Georgia toured Suniva, a solar startup born from research conducted at Georgia Tech.

Founded by Tech Regents’ Professor Ajeet Rohatgi, Suniva was formed to manufacture high-efficiency, low-cost solar cells and modules based on Rohatgi’s research at Tech’s University Center of Excellence in Photovoltaics (UCEP). Currently the only high-efficiency silicon cell manufacturer in the US according to the company’s website, Suniva sells solar products to customers around the world.

In the visit organized by the Office of the President and the Office of Government and Community Relations, the Georgia Tech group travelled to Suniva’s Norcross headquarters and met with Rohatgi, Chairman and CEO John Baumstark, and Senior Director of Strategic Partners Anthony Coker to learn about the company’s history, operations, and plans for photovoltaic expansion in the Southeast. The company executives then led the guests on a tour of the company’s manufacturing center where the innovative solar cells are fabricated.

President and Mrs. Peterson and Senator Williams were joined by Toombs County businessman Grady Miles and entrepreneurs Trey and Shena Pippin. The Pippins currently operate a 200 kilowatt solar system powered by Suniva equipment on their pecan farm in Arlington, Georgia.

Suniva has earned acclaim from a variety of industry and governmental authorities has recently been toured by US Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke. According to their website, the company currently produces the “world’s lowest cost, highest cell conversion efficiency commercially available.” Ninety percent of its 2009 production was exported to Europe and China.