At Inspired Light, former HP innovator takes on solar power
By Lee van der Voo
Frank Cloutier has a favorite quote: “Do it and brag, not the other way around."
So he hasn’t talked much about happenings at Corvallis-based Inspired Light, where he is currently CEO, although he isn’t shy in saying that he hopes it will change the world.
Given his history with disruptive technology, it just might.
Cloutier is considered the father of inkjet printing technology, which was developed under his leadership during his 32-year tenure with computer-maker Hewlett-Packard Co. He’s also been involved with building other multi-million organizations.
Now, at Inspired Light, he is heading a unique effort to ramp up the efficiency of solar technology, at the same time working to drive down the price of a solar system that can rival other forms of energy generation
“If we didn’t think we could get there, frankly, I wouldn’t be doing this,” says Cloutier.
While he says the company, which employs 12, is still a couple years away from putting a solar system on the market, early progress recently lured a $150,000 grant from Oregon BEST —the Oregon Built Environment and Sustainable Technologies Center — aimed at helping Inspired Light leap its last few technical hurdles.
Should the company clear those, it plans to produce a solar energy system that can harvest about 50 percent more energy per square foot than conventional systems. Among other innovations in the system, its solar photovoltaic cells are generating energy at rates reaching 30 percent efficiency, compared to the 15-18 percent efficiency typical of conventional photovoltaic, or PV, panels.
Cloutier said Inspired Light is also taking a comprehensive design approach that includes new and novel materials, optical design, and tracking. Its manufacturing processes allow the system to harvest light with simple and low cost materials, then convert it into energy using a very small quantity of PV material.
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