Technical Project Officer
SunShot CSP Program
Having run many marathons, Tommy Rueckert has also persevered to see the concentrating solar power (CSP) industry through some pretty rough times. Tommy has been working with DOE's CSP program since before it was the CSP program. When he started in April 1994, it was called solar thermal electric and was combined with biomass power and photovoltaics.
"I first became interested in solar energy when my professor at Brown University introduced me to the book, Soft Energy Paths, by Amory Lovins," said Tommy. "He also told us about this 'new' solar technology planned for the Mojave Desert—what later became Solar One—which inspired me to do my junior project on heliostat designs."
Tommy joined DOE right out of college hoping to work with the Solar Energy Technologies Office, but there were no openings at the time. Instead, he used this opportunity to work at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) inspecting industrial boiler facilities to see if they qualified as cogeneration facilities under PURPA. After 14 years at FERC, the solar door reopened and he made the switch from natural gas to natural light.
Tommy currently manages all of the industry and university projects selected through funding opportunity announcements in the CSP portfolio. He is also responsible for CSP communications and international activities. In his spare time, he plays guitar and sings at clubs around town and in the Blue Ridge Mountains, spreading the good news about solar energy with his infamous "Panel on Every Rooftop" song.
With the CSP industry being shaped by a sequence of ups and downs over the years, Tommy believes that the best days for CSP are on the horizon.
"I think the energy landscape will change significantly once the five large CSP projects currently under construction in the U.S. Southwest begin producing power in late 2013 and early 2014," said Tommy. "Then people will see the reality of large-scale solar energy with storage, producing cost-competitive reliable renewable power whenever it's needed."