Dan Shugar Profile: Tracking the sun, from utility planner to entrepreneur

By on October 21, 2016


Mercury News

Dan Shugar, CEO of NEXTracker outside the company’s Fremont offices

FREMONT — Dan Shugar was the kind of kid who hustled to earn a few bucks doing yard work and odd jobs for neighbors. Going to work for a large, public utility like PG&E after college didn’t dampen his entrepreneurial spirit.

Shugar discovered his passion for solar technology in the utility’s R&D department. He took up the solar cause even as the first hints of net metering — the structure and billing system used to integrate renewable energy onto the grid — were being proposed at actor Robin William’s wine country ranch.

Shugar co-founded PowerLight, a solar power system provider, and sold it to SunPower in late 2006.

Tracker technology — typically frames with small motors to tilt solar panels at optimal angles toward the sun — became the focus of his next venture while CEO of solar manufacturer Solaria. A tracker can produce about 25 percent more energy than a similar, stationary panel. NEXTracker was spun out of Solaria in 2013, although the two still share an office building in Fremont.

The tracker market is expected to nearly triple this year, to 12.6 gigawatts of power installed in 2016, according to a forecast by GTM Research. NEXTracker focused on light, balanced systems with small motors and became a leader in the field, having delivered trackers to solar projects generating a combined 4 gigawatts of energy on five continents.

NEXTracker was purchased by Flextronics International for about $330 million in 2015. It now employs about 210 people in offices around the world.

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