At a ceremony to be held at the Gore Recital Hall, Center for the Arts at the University of Delaware at 3:00 p.m. EDT today, Dr. Richard Swanson, president emeritus and co-founder of SunPower Corp., will receive the 2011 Karl Boer Solar Energy Medal of Merit. This award recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the promotion of solar as an alternative source of energy through research, development or economic enterprise.
Swanson is one of the world's most recognized leaders in the advancement of photovoltaics (PV) and a pioneer in commercializing cost-effective PV power systems. In 1985, he founded SunPower with the goal of commercializing large-scale photovoltaic power plants based on high efficiency silicon solar cells. With a grant from venture capitalists, the Electric Power Research Institute and the U.S. Department of Energy, Swanson and his group developed the silicon concentrator solar cells that continue to hold the efficiency record today. His research also led to the development of new methods of studying the impact of large doping densities in semiconductors, and associated physical theories, that paved the way for optimized doping profiles in solar cells.
"When SunPower was founded 26 years ago, solar was little more than a concept," said Richard Swanson, president emeritus and co-founder. "Today, solar is becoming main stream and it is highly gratifying to be a part of this energy revolution. SunPower has contributed to the phenomenal growth of solar, and I have been fortunate to work with extraordinary engineers to deliver the highest efficiency, most reliable technology on the market today. It is my extreme privilege to receive this award."
Swanson graduated from The Ohio State University in 1969, with his bachelors and masters degrees in electrical engineering. He then earned his Ph.D. at Stanford University, where he received a post-doctoral fellowship to study techniques for solar-electric power generation. Swanson joined the faculty at Stanford as an assistant professor of electrical engineering where he obtained funding from the U.S. government's Electric Power Research Institute to investigate thermophotovoltaic energy conversion for solar applications.
In 1991, Swanson resigned from his faculty position to focus his attention on SunPower to develop and commercialize cost-effective, high efficiency photovoltaic power systems. SunPower's all-back contact solar cells powered Honda to victory in the 1993 World Solar Challenge, and were also used to power Helios, NASA's high-altitude solar powered airplane to a world-record altitude of 96,500 feet. Swanson received the IR100 Award in 1995 for providing Honda and NASA with these record-setting solar cells.
In 2006, Swanson was honored with the prestigious Becquerel Prize for Outstanding Merits in Photovoltaics, and in 2002 he was presented with the William R. Cherry Award by the IEEE for outstanding contributions to the PV field. Most recently, Swanson was the recipient of the Economist's Energy and Environment Innovation Award for 2009.
Solar power has grown an average of 40 percent per year since the beginning of the decade, with global solar installations expanding to 19 gigawatts in 2010, and Swanson has been instrumental in its development. Since he founded SunPower in 1985, the company has successfully researched methods of increasing the efficiency of solar cells and, as a result, the company has announced efficiencies of up to 24.3 percent.
The Karl Boer Solar Energy Medal of Merit, awarded every two years, honors Karl Wolfgang Boer, a University of Delaware faculty member, founder of the college's Institute of Energy Conversion and a distinguished scientist in the field of solar cells.