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Berke is back at Konarka, solar material start-up in Lowell

Posted by Scott Kirsner  May 3, 2011 12:02 PM

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Konarka Technologies co-founder Howard Berke quietly slipped back into the driver's seat of the Lowell solar start-up last September a switch that wasn't announced at the time. Berke nudged aside Rick Hess, who had been serving as CEO since 2007, and who has since landed at American Superconductor as a vice president. A Konarka spokeswoman tells me that Hess stayed at Konarka "for a brief time for an orderly transition."

During Hess' three-year stint as CEO of Konarka, former CEO Berke didn't go far: he remained executive chairman of the company, while also serving as an advisor to the cleantech investing firm Good Energies.

When I last wrote about Konarka, in August 2010 ("Is it dawn or sunset for Konarka's technology?"), the company had raised about $170 million from a collection of investors, and another $20 million in government grants but hadn't yet moved into high-volume production of the thin, flexible, and purportedly cheap-to-produce photovoltaic material it calls "Power Plastic." Konarka makes its products in a former Polaroid factory in New Bedford; Power Plastic has been integrated into things like messenger bags that can recharge laptops and portable devices. (The company has yet to announce how much Power Plastic it has produced for customers.)

In other Konarka personnel news, the company today announced that it has hired a 30-year Kodak veteran, Jim Buntaine, as its chief technology officer.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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