For solar power, the future looks bright

Fortune Magazine talks about Swanson, a 62 year old engineer that gave up a tenured position on the faculty at Stanford to start a solar-energy company in 1985. Since then he has watched other other companies, with inventive ideas and impractical plans, fail. And that’s how it unusually worked in the solar business.

His company, SunPower, was no exception. It lived off research grants and boutique assignments, like making solar cells for a Honda automobile that won a 1,700-mile race across Australia. “We did anything we could to survive,” Swanson says.

Today, like the rest of the solar energy industry, SunPower is heating up. With electricity prices rising, worries about global warming mounting, and the cost of solar energy falling, the business of making electricity from the sun is about to go mainstream in a big way.