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Bay Area solar entrepreneur works to woo architects, builders

Louis Hansen, The Mercury News on

Published in Home and Consumer News

Q: After college, you spent time in India?

A: When I was graduating from college, most people were going to either graduate school or consulting firms or investment banks. It just didn't appeal to me.

I was very interested in Gandhi and what he had done. I went back to India on a one-way ticket to do rural development work ... but also to connect to India. I had lost touch with it. My native language was Hindi, but I had forgotten to really read and write it. I re-learned that and reconnected. I was there for about 10 months.

I stayed in the villages for about three months. People had literally nothing, very little, in terms of physical goods. The life was hard but (they were) really wonderful people. I helped some nonprofits there.

I realized that India didn't seem to want another Gandhi. They wanted another Bill Gates.

Q: How did you find the solar industry?

A: Given my roots in social benefit areas, I wanted to stay in business, but I wanted to do something that could be used for good in the world. Solar just felt like the right thing, when I looked at the numbers.

Probably the real answer is, I think one time my wife said, "Why don't you just get into the solar industry?" I thought that was a great idea.

I was looking at starting something on my own, but Solaria was a very small company at the time. I got to know some of the founders. (It was) literally a 2 to 3 person company in New Mexico.

First thing I did was to move the company out here. We set up in Berkeley.

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