Quiet Quercus Trust Chief Gelbaum Signs On as Solar CEO

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Former hedge-funder-turned-greentech investor and philanthropist David Gelbaum has taken on a new role, as CEO of Entech Solar (s ENSL). A developer of concentrating solar modules and a daylighting system that’s scheduled to launch early this year, Entech Solar got its official start in 2008. That’s when solar installer WorldWater & Solar Technology acquired a 25-year-old development-focused firm called Entech, Inc. — in a deal that Gelbaum’s secretive Quercus Trust helped finance with a $35 million investment.

This move into the executive role for Gelbaum, who was already Chairman and a major shareholder for Entech Solar, comes on the heels of a rough year for the investor. In December 2009, he revealed that “a shift in my financial circumstances” had forced him to rein in philanthropic donations to organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union, Sierra Club and Iraq-Afghanistan Deployment Impact Fund of the California Community Foundation.

It will be interesting to see what other shifts come about for this famously low-profile investor as a result of his new, more visible role at the helm of a publicly traded company.

Quercus Trust, according to the Cleantech Group, was the third-most active venture fund investing in cleantech in all of 2008. As of December 2007, Gelbuam had a 20-company portfolio of clean energy stocks worth more than $400 million, consisting mainly of small- and micro-cap clean energy stocks (check out our list of 10 Cleantech Deals from Quiet Quercus). The portfolio has reportedly expanded by now to at least 48 companies.

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