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Stephen Shea

Swarthmore College, University of Delaware – Suniva, Chief Engineering Officer

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Stephen Shea went to Swarthmore College with the goal of becoming an English professor; however, during his freshman year he realized that his true calling was engineering. “I took an engineering course really just so I could have something to talk about with my grandfather; he was a WWI and WWII veteran, and the Chief Engineer for Burlington Industries,” said Shea. “That one course opened my eyes to the world of engineering and renewable energy.” Shea was first intrigued by the photovoltaics industry 40 years ago, and is still working in the industry today.

Stephen Shea obtained dual Engineering and English Literature degrees from Swarthmore College. During his junior year at Swarthmore, he went to a lecture given by Dr. Karl Boer, who founded the Institute of Energy Conversion at the University of Delaware. The lecture led him to pursue an advanced degree specifically oriented towards photovoltaics. Shea earned his M.S.E.E. and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Delaware.

After completing his Ph.D., Shea continued to work for the University of Delaware’s Institute of Energy Conversion for several years. In the early 1980s, Shea decided that he wanted to pursue a manufacturing career rather than stay in academics.

At the time, there were only two companies focused on large scale manufacturing of photovoltaics in the U.S. – Solarex and Arco Solar. Shea began working at Solarex; an East Coast based start-up that became one of the largest vertically integrated PV companies in the world. Shea moved his family to the Washington, D.C. area and stayed there for a little over 20 years, as the company grew and eventually merged with BP Solar in the early 2000s. Shea started off as a Research and Development Engineer at Solarex and then went on to become Director of Technology at BP solar.

After their son left for college, Shea and his wife bought an inn in Western North Carolina. They ran it for three years while Shea worked as an independent PV consultant. Around that time an old friend from the industry, Dr. Ajeet Rohatgi from Georgia Tech, gave him a call asking him to be a part of his new company – Suniva. As Vice President of Manufacturing, Shea had a leading role in the building of Suniva’s plant, the factory, and the manufacturing business. Today, he is the Chief Engineering Officer of Suniva.

“Any good technical education that leads to a practicable ability to create and control tools and manufacturing processes fits in well with alternative energy,” said Shea. “Alternatives really have reached the point of being competitive with conventional sources of power; there are now many new opportunities for smart growth in the renewable energy sector.”

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