Chris O’Brien is no starry-eyed idealist. An engineer with an MBA, he began his career developing fossil-fired power plants for the AES Corp. But in the 1990s his career took a different turn, when he launched the Energy Star program for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. After that, he went into the solar energy business, and never has looked back.
Before joining Oerlikon Solar, O’Brien developed markets for photovoltaic (PV) modules in positions at BP and Sharp. From 2003 through 2008, he chaired the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the national trade group for solar equipment manufacturers. Now he’s working to build a network of PV-module manufacturers using Oerlikon’s cell-production lines.
To discuss the outlook for utility solar investments, Fortnightly met with O’Brien in his Washington, D.C., offices early this year, and followed up by telephone in March.
Fortnightly: What does Oerlikon do?