A New Chief Takes Over At Nanosolar

Martin Roscheisen, the outspoken exec that had been leading thin-film solar firm Nanosolar as its CEO over the past eight years, is out. The company, which in September moved into high volume production of its thin-film solar material at its factory in San Jose, Calif., announced this morning that it has hired Geoff Tate, former CEO of chip firm Rambus and senior vice president of chip maker Advanced Micro Devices, as its new CEO.

There’s no mention of the reason for the change in leadership in the company’s statement, and we’re waiting to hear back on the transition from Nanosolar. It’s not uncommon for founders — Roscheisen and Vice President of Corporate Development Brian Sager founded Nanosolar in 2002 — to leave a company as it moves from small startup to large-scale manufacturer. Here’s a 10 question interview with Roscheisen we did back in the Summer of 2007.

It’s also not uncommon for a chip exec to take over the helm of a solar firm. Solyndra founder and CEO Christian Gronet has a Ph.D. in semiconductor processing from Stanford University, spent over a decade at chip company Applied Materials and also founded G-Squared Semiconductor Corporation, which was eventually acquired by Applied Materials. Solar thermal company eSolar brought on John Van Scoter, who has a 25-year career at chip company Texas Instruments, as its CEO recently.

Van Scoter told me in an interview that the dynamics of the solar markets today, remind him of the semiconductor industry of over 25 years ago, right before it took off. “The big breakthroughs have yet to come,” said Van Scoter, adding that the conjoining of factors and mega-trends, from government policy, to energy security, to utility movements toward renewables, “all are coming together.”

Nanosolar has just moved into the stage where it’s got to scale up rapidly to reach economies of scale and grow large to compete. eSolar has also just moved into that phase. First Solar, a chief competitor to Nanosolar, has been scoring utility and commercial solar deals left and right.

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