About Karl Spain
My Philosophy – God is love. Correction, that’s his philosophy, I’m borrowing it.
As a Father – 2 kids; my son Max (Cornell) and my daughter Merrill (Duquesne), Max still in college and Merrill starting college, both doing great, 2 beautiful children — with loving hearts and keen minds. “Love began in me, as a child.”
As a Bicyclist – Mr. Spain and Mr. Jon Greenstone bicycled parts of the U.S. and Canada in 1979, for 90 days. It was quite an adventure. Mr. Greenstone today is the Pastor of the Emmitsburg Lutheran Church, and the two are still friends.
In Newspapers — Mr. Spain and Mr. Martin More established The County Express in 1980, grew it into a 35 person organization before selling to the Journal Newspapers, a chain of 6 daily papers with 350 employees and 150,000 in circulation. After the sale in 1992, Mr. Spain continued on at the Journal, first as The Prince Georges Journal publisher, than VP, and eventually president and publisher of all 6 papers from 1995 to 2000.
More Bicyclist stuff — In 1985 Mr. Spain and Miss Stephanie Raker bicycled around Europe together for 30 days. It was quite an adventure. The former Miss Raker lives in Israel today with her husband Josh, and their brood. She has an important position with AIPAC, the Jewish lobby — everyone back here in the states is very proud of her!
In IT – Mr. Spain, as president and founder of IGF Technical Services, led the design, development, contract administration, installation and implementation (including training) of a $2M Intranet and Digital archiving system at Tommy Hilfiger in NYC from 2002 to 2007. The contract was successfully completed on budget, and on time to complete customer satisfaction.
As a Typesetter – Mr. Spain is a graduate from the Compugraphic Typesetting course. Typography, like newspapers, was completely wiped out by the Internet, at least as an art form. Interestingly enough, the destruction of photographic and mechanized Typography has re-vitalized the more ancient art of Calligraphy. God works in mysterious ways and his love is even evident in the shape of a letter.
As an Author – Mr. Spain and Dr. Mark Richards co-authored The Revelation, which they published in 2009. The book explains the relationship between the brain, society and a spiritual reality that has a mathematical basis. God is Love.
Also as an Author – Mr. Spain ghostwrote America I Love, God I Trust, an autobiographical portrait of Aris Mardirossian, a groundbreaking inventor and Horatio Alger type immigrant tale, published in 2010.
In Real Estate – Mr. Spain bought and renovated (plus fully leased) 5 buildings around the Washington D.C. beltway leaving those properties with $5M in positive equity and healthy cash flow in 2001. He also built a 9,000 square foot log home in West Virginia in 2005/06.
More IT stuff — In the 1990’s – Mr. Spain took a break from solar inventing and tried his hand at software development — of an artificial intelligence product — that diagnosed car trouble. It was called Auto-Tech, and the final product that made it into the supply chain was wildly profitable for 2 years. Loved the 90’s.
In Mergers and Acquisitions — Before leaving the Journals, Mr. Spain brought the family ownership 2 sales offers for the company, from Robert Haft and the Washington Times. Both offers were for more than $34M, for a company that began with negative book value when Mr. Spain was first made president. Even though the Phillips family turned these down and subsequently changed direction with the company, these offers represented a $24M net gain (over Basis/Debt) for the family — if it had been realized.
Mr. Spain’s history of solar inventions/research.
1978 – Mr. Spain draws his first plan for a solar heated building at Gaithersburg High School, the core concept drawings still exist, and it’s a thermal solar design for a kindergarten/daycare building. Simple, thermal panels heat the water, which is stored in a giant concrete pit under the building. Air is forced up through the water (on a long path, achieved through gravel and plastic ramps buried in the pit) before bubbling out and being sucked up into forced air ducts by fans. Back up heat was by traditional forced air heater on the outside walls.
Post Mortem: The quality of the drafting work for an 18-year was advanced. The concept broke some basic rules of thermodynamics that I didn’t understand at that time –and would have also been a potential mold/health disaster if built — but the principle of using thermal on rooftops for hot water was dead on and still is the only practical use of rooftops for solar. Also, don’t mix the use of new technologies and anything to do with children.
1980’s – Mr. Spain switches his interest in alternative energy to Photovoltaics. Visits Solarex in Frederick MD, at that time the leader in PV manufacturing technology, and begins work on an idea to use impure crystal silicone extrusion as an alternative to diamond wire saw cutting as a practice for the manufacture of multi-layered finished product crystal silicone PV wafers. This pursuit lasts 10 years and leads to the discovery of extrusion as a viable crystal silicone PV manufacturing alternative. Bell Labs and others demonstrated this effect, according to witnesses, although their demonstration was of a pure crystal extrusion.
Post Mortem: Scalability remains the single biggest obstacle to grid parity and grid safety for PV generation, and extrusion would have attacked scalability from every angle including economics but this experience taught me something valuable about the importance of proven technology verses the usefulness of new technology. New technology is burdened by IP restrictions and (non-existent by definition) proven long-term reliability issues, things which are necessary for large scale PV implementation.
The huge downward movement in PV pricing has exposed further weaknesses in the long-term Continuous Installation Model for PV deployment, the fulfillment of which, in some form, is necessary for PV to ever produce a serious (greater than 10%) percentage of our nations electrical generation.
These exposed weaknesses in order of importance are;
- High Balance of System Costs (BOS). SUSO solves this, but has yet to be implemented.
- If demand grows exponentially, as it must for large scale implementation to occur, can wire saw production of crystal silicone PV modules keep up? This is why extrusion was considered so important and I worked on it futilely for 10 years in the 80’s.
- The Chinese have proven however, that brut market force can push any demand supply curve, so today the big question has changed from we get extrusion (or some other breakthrough production technology) going (in order for the market to get down to 50 cents a watt), to a different question; namely, would the Chinese be willing to move the market price of PV modules from the current 50 cents a watt down to 35 cents a watt, and could they produce enough of it — if we in the US would agree to buy substantially more than we do today?
2000-2011 — Mr. Spain and partner Alan Nozneski focused on reflection as a method for increasing solar output sufficiently to make distributed PV development practical and conform to the economics of grid parity. See the thing we built in his yard pictured here somewhere, quite impressive, that part of the total project took 2 years alone. Alan and I used to buzz up to a weld shop in Ransom WV, where we fabricated the reflector and axis assembly and stop off in towns in between to answer fire calls — Alan is a firefighter. Much fun!
Post Mortem: Reflection in the low multiples, two to 3 Suns, will be a huge part of PV economics going forward. This project was a turning point for me. A lot of the thinking that went into Surrogate Solar or SUSO as we now call it, came about as I was trying to solve riddles this reflection project opened my eyes too. Invention is a process, it began over 35 years ago for me and doesn’t end today, it’s a cycle of marginal productivity that we all stand in — and contribute too — but that none of us should own.
2012-Present — Mr. Spain has been developing SUSO. Click here to view the SUTSO web site (name change). The site URL is http://sutso.webs.com