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10 Innovators to Watch in 1999

Fortnightly Magazine - December 1998

Employees' natural instinct (em the wrong one (em is to load FERC accounts into the SAP system.

Supplying technology to Conectiv's nine business units means understanding very different IT needs.

"If you have trading on line, they have some high reliability and availability needs," he says. "If they're off when the market peaks ¼ they may miss a trade or have a position they don't dispose of quickly enough. That costs them money. On the other hand, we have a services business where they're out repairing things and they don't want ultra-high reliability. Even a fax machine might work."

Acquiring the HVAC companies has posed questions like that, and the company, Aveyard says, must be careful not to impose one solution, possibly a costly solution, on all problems. "You can do a lot with a fax machine. You don't have to have the latest technology."

On the other hand, Conectiv is examining how to boost technology in its trading areas. Having a trading arm poses the question: "Is it cheaper for me to generate power myself, in my own power plant, or to buy it on the open market? Or, hey, if the open market's going up, is it cheaper for me to generate power at the greater rate and sell it on the open market because I got a good margin?"

To make those decisions, employees will need to understand fuel prices, contracts for gas, oil and coal, and the capabilities of plants to turn those fuels into electricity.

Aveyard hopes to find solutions to these challenges soon. The CIO will have little choice, as the deregulation "assembly line" has been turned on in Pennsylvania and starts up in New Jersey next July.

Allen M. Barnett, president and CEO, AstroPower Inc.

This year will be long remembered by Allen M. Barnett, president and CEO of AstroPower Inc.

On Feb. 12, the company (em the second largest U.S.-owned photovoltaics maker (em went public, raising $16.7 million. In July, AstroPower opened a 60,000-square-foot manufacturing plant near its Newark, Del. headquarters. It will produce 9 megawatts of solar cells and modules, tripling the company's output. And before the year's end, Barnett expected to file his 16th patent, for the next generation of silicon film.

"It will put the interconnects on the solar cell itself so you don't have to wire the cells together," the CEO says of his invention. "It actually transforms the device from a high current, low-voltage device to a high-voltage, medium current device."

Could 1999 be as exciting?

With Barnett, you never know.

After all, the small company's sales have doubled in the last three years. This year's sales are expected to be about $24 million, up from 1997's $16 million figure. The new manufacturing plant may prompt more expansion in 1999.

Couple that growth with the fact that the market for solar power is almost $2 billion.

Barnett, who holds a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, started his "AstroPowered" journey in 1981 when he won a government contract to do a comparative analysis of solar cell manufacturing. The analysis looked at