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Fledgling Solar Firm Seeks $22.5M in Cash , But Not From VCs

Most new companies eager to bring a product to market generally welcome any and all private investments.

But at La Jolla-based Pyron Solar, Inc., only investors truly passionate about saving the environment need apply.

Pyron’s handful of employees, many of whom are working for free, launched an aggressive campaign late last month with the hope of garnering enough financial support in the coming year to start production on a new kind of solar electric generator.

The new product works in conjunction with traditional photovoltaic panels to gather more sun power than the panels can gather alone. But the group, which needs about $22.5 million to start production, is not interested in talking to venture capitalists eager to turn a quick profit.

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Instead, Pyron is soliciting groups such as the San Diego Regional Energy Office and the Navy for private placement offerings, assuming those groups will care more about the long-term goals of the company. Pyron’s goal is renewable energy development across the globe, but especially in the United States, where petroleum accounts for 42 percent of total energy sources used vs. only 2 percent coming from hydro, solar and wind systems, according to Americans for Energy Independence 2025, a grass-roots educational campaign founded by former Qualcomm Inc. executive Chris Wolfe. The group spoke along with Pyron at a recent public event staged to highlight the new product and need for renewable energy.

“We feel we’re really poised to bring to the solar market something that is really different,” said Pyron spokesman Sidney Wildesmith, noting that 18 months’ worth of research shows the company’s new product can produce 10 times more electricity per acre than any other system in the market today.

Intrigued by the possibility, the San Diego Regional Energy Office has already asked Pyron for more information. But whether many public agencies can afford to invest in Pyron remains to be seen.

Wildesmith said he’s hoping the long-term benefits of reliable, renewable energy may make the investment more appealing.

Invented by husband-and-wife team John and Inge Laing, both German-American physicists with about 1,000 patents between them, the Pyron generator is the result of about 20 years of development.

The couple’s passion during the past two decades for solar products was largely driven by a commitment to make the world a better place for their 14 grandchildren, Inge Laing said.

John Laing, who previously invented a component that made early hair driers possible, said at the heart of the system is a device no larger than a juice glass that gathers the sun’s power after it hits the photovoltaic panels. The Pyron generator also follows the sun’s movement easily for optimal gathering, and because it gathers more power than panels alone, it takes up less land space.

“Photovoltaic is a good technology,” said William Bresee, Pyron’s legal counsel. “It’s an easily understandable technology. Anyone who has had a solar calculator and seen how that worked can get it. But photovoltaic is not all there is or all there can be.”

Neuropsychologist Lorraine Camenzuli, a member of the Americans for Energy Independence 2025 board of directors, applauded Pyron’s passion and efforts recently during an Aug. 31 informational seminar and tour.

“We’re going to be running out of oil , some believe 10 years from now, some believe 20 years from now , it’s just a matter of time either way,” Camenzuli said, noting that her group is striving for total independence from foreign energy sources by 2025 via education and lobbying of consumers and politicians.

Geologist Ed Nixon, who has actively pursued the development of hybrid electric power plants combining conventional and alternative energy resources, also attended the Aug. 31 event and said he saw great potential in the Laings’ latest invention.

“I won’t be able to see it,” said Nixon, the younger brother of President Nixon. “I’m 75 years old, but thanks to the Laings, I think we have a future here. I can see that it’s all here , the facts are definitely here.”

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