Jigar Shah’s father couldn’t resist a good salesman. While Shah was growing up in rural Illinois, his dad would buy encyclopedias and reference books from college students who were selling them door to door.
A particular set of seven thin beige books stood out to Shah. One was about energy. Each technology, from coal to solar, got its own two-page spread, he says.
“They’ve all got two pages, so they’re all equal,” he remembers thinking while flipping through the book at age 16.
Solar caught his eye. He says he remembers thinking that most other sources of energy require burning or boiling something to spin a turbine. Solar made more sense, he says — and no one was ever able to convince him otherwise.
Shah later went on to found SunEdison in 2003, which grew into one of the world’s largest solar energy and finance companies, pioneering the no-money-down model.
Years later, long after Shah left, the company was purchased by MEMC and eventually went bankrupt. SunEdison is considered one of the largest corporate boom-and-bust stories in the history of the solar industry.
Today, Shah is the president of Generate Capital, the largest funder of frontier climate-change solutions, he says. Shah says the firm has $1.3 billion of assets on its balance sheet.
Much like SunEdison, Generate Capital provides a financing tool for clean energy, though it funds all kinds of projects. In February, Generate announced that it raised a $1 billion fund for clean energy, The Wall Street Journal reported.