Tom Hoff: Cleaning Up Power

May 20, 2009
Tom Hoff thought that technology was always the answer to successfully solving a problem when he first started his career.

Tom Hoff thought that technology was always the answer to successfully solving a problem when he first started his career. After his experience as founder and president of Clean Power Research, researching and consulting, he has come to learn that the people are the key to an organization’s success.

“Technology can help deliver tools efficiently, but without the right people, the tools are of no use,” Hoff said. “It is because of the talented set of high-caliber people in our company that I get to do what I love: analyze solar stuff.”

Hoff’s company, Clean Power Research, provides consulting services to evaluate the economics of clean energy investments. He founded the company in 1998, and Hoff himself has more than 25 years of experience in photovoltaic and other clean energy technologies. He has been passionate about renewable and clean energy for a long time, he said. His published research includes extensive work on the value of photovoltaics and other clean energy investments for a wide range of applications and ownership perspectives, including microgrids, distributed generation, customer-sited, and central station.

Hoff will bring his experience to the Solar Electric Power Association’s Utility Solar Conference in July in San Jose, California, when he presents sessions on PV output variability and on incentive structures. PV output variability has been identified as a major potential barrier to high-penetration PV. “Our research suggests that intelligent PV fleet design can help to mitigate this issue,” Hoff said.

As for incentive structures, Clean Power’s perspective in working with incentive agencies in terms of design, implementation, and evaluation enables Hoff to share some valuable lessons. “We’ve found that thinking carefully about implementation at the time of program design can have a strong influence on the type of incentive structure that works best for the program.”

Hoff has personally stayed involved with consulting and software development throughout his career, as his company also offers several software programs, such as PowerClerk, Clean Power Estimator, SolarAnywhere, QuickQuotes, and PVCheck. Clean energy incentive programs throughout the United States, including California Solar Initiative, use PowerClerk to administer their programs and provide information to the market. The Clean Power Estimator has been used extensively by the PV industry for more than a decade to provide consumers with a personalized estimate of the economic value of PV and other clean energy technologies.

He decided to specialize in the solar field when he was earning his master’s degree. He proceeded to obtain his PhD in engineering economic systems from Stanford University. During his academic career, but particularly while getting his Ph.D. at Stanford, he spent a lot of time reading journals and academic papers. He found that many of the most valuable methods, techniques and insights were relatively locked away in these academic sources.

“So I came to appreciate the potential of making advanced analytical methods accessible in easy-to-use tools. As I began to publish my own research, I had the opportunity to actually do that,” Hoff said. “Clean Power Research was founded on a vision of providing cutting-edge analytic techniques to a wide audience through software.”

Hoff enjoys seeing clean energy become reality after he has worked for so long in this field. He also enjoys walking with his wife, being with his children and doing volunteer work with youth through his church and Boy Scouts.

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