Dan Shugar

Chief Executive Officer

Venture firms love to hire CEOs who have steered their firms to successful exits and Shugar fits the bill. He is a solar success story.”

Eric Wesoff
Editor-in-chief, GTM

As founder and CEO, Dan Shugar helped build NEXTracker into one of the fastest growing cleantech companies in the U.S. Before he started NEXTracker, he served as CEO for the innovative cell manufacturer Solaria Corp. Decades ago, Shugar played a leading role in commercializing the first utility-scale solar trackers while working at APS & NWP Corp. He later served as president of PowerLight Corp., which was acquired by SunPower in 2006. Shugar oversaw revenue growth at PowerLight and SunPower from less than $1 million to more than $830 million and was responsible for the completion of more than 500 projects serving commercial, industrial, and utility clients worldwide. He has invented various PV system applications, holds multiple U.S. patents and has published more than 50 technical papers. Shugar earned a BS in electrical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an MBA from Golden Gate University.

Dan Shugar’s NEXTracker Story

The way Dan Shugar describes his love affair with photovoltaics sounds like a fairy tale. They met when he was a transmission planner at PG&E, California’s big, investor-owned utility. He was working in the R&D department, looking at solar cells and thinking, “Let me get this straight. I’ve got this device and the light energy hits this thing and makes electricity. And when does this silicon thing run out of electrons?” Well, it doesn’t, as his research would soon reveal.   

“I was very intrigued by this,” recalls Shugar. “This technology is the only technology today that makes energy with no moving parts and burning no fuel. Nothing else does that. I fell in love with this thing.”

It’s a love affair that has lasted to this day. In fact, it has produced great offspring, if we want to stay within the metaphor. After being frustrated with the slow advancement of renewables at PG&E, Shugar joined APS & NWP Corporations, developing innovative solar tracker technology. From there he went on to PowerLight Corporation, making the Berkeley-based company the biggest commercial installer in the U.S. As the company grew rapidly, Shugar established his reputation as a big-picture guy with deep technical knowledge. When PowerLight was acquired by SunPower Corporation in 2006, it marked the most successful exit in the solar industry to that point.

Shugar stayed on as President at SunPower until he decided to join innovative solar module manufacturer Solaria, cementing his reputation as a serial entrepreneur and a true pioneer of the U.S. solar industry, always looking for ways to advance technology — and ultimately to make fossil fuels obsolete. While driving the companies forward, he served as a lobbyist and expert witness whenever there was a chance to further the cause of renewable energy.

During his time at Solaria it became clear to Shugar that, with falling silicon prices, lowering the BOS (balance of system) costs of solar power plants would be the next big battlefield. Unhappy with the trackers available to Solaria to drive its concentrated modules, the company began to develop its own tracker technology — which resulted in the founding of NEXTracker.

Shugar is a captivating public speaker who is happy to take the stage and inspire people with his passion for clean energy and his vision for a 100 percent renewable future. As board member for the Sierra Club Foundation for the past six years, Shugar was highly engaged in the Beyond Coal campaign. His business partners and employees know that he is committed to building world class teams, acting with integrity, and adhering to strong business ethics. And he’s having fun, too. Just wait until he breaks out one of his guitars for a jam session in the office. We still don’t know, however, if he’s written a love song about his affair with photovoltaics yet.

For a 2016 presentation Dan Shugar gave at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club on the Future of Solar, listen to the podcast here

 

 

Venture firms love to hire CEOs who have steered their firms to successful exits and Shugar fits the bill. He is a solar success story.”

Eric Wesoff
Editor-in-chief, GTM

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