The Economist’s Energy and Environment Innovation Award this year will go to Richard Swanson, president and CTO of SunPower Corp. The award will be given to him in recognition for his contribution to the development of the high-efficiency solar cells. His past honors include the Becquerel Prize for Outstanding Merits in Photovoltaics in 2006 and the William R. Cherry Award by the IEEE for outstanding contributions to the PV Field in 2002.
“When SunPower was founded almost a quarter century ago, solar was little more than a concept,” said Swanson. “Today, it is within reach of becoming mainstream throughout much of the world, 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, what is today, the planet’s most powerful solar technology. It is my extreme privilege to be recognized by The Economist and this innovation award.”
Swanson received his bachelors and masters degrees in electrical engineering from Ohio State University. He went on to earn a PhD from Stanford University, where he also received a post-doctoral fellowship to study techniques for solar-electric power generation. He eventually joined the faculty at Stanford as an assistant professor of electrical engineering and obtained funding from the US government’s Electric Power Research Institute to investigate thermophotovoltaic energy conversion for solar applications.
In 1991, Swanson left Stanford to devote his attention to SunPower, a company he had founded in 1985, to develop and commercialize cost-effective and high-efficiency photovoltaic power systems.