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San Jose State University
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Speakers at a Panel Session on
Clean Energy – Challenges and Opportunities

Moderator:      Tai-Ran Hsu, Professor, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, San Jose State University, San Jose, California
Panelists:         Darren T. Kimura, President and CEO, Sopogy Inc., Honolulu, Hawaii (on solar energy technology)
                        Blake A. Simmons, Sandia National Laboratories, Livermore, California (on fuel cell technology)
                        Walter Bacharowski, Founder and President, silicon Valley Biodiesel, Inc., San Jose, California (on biomass technology for California)
                        Jim Robbins, Executive Director, Environmental Business Cluster, San Jose, California. (on business opportunities)


Walter Bacharowski. Walter is the founder and president of Silicon Valley Biodiesel, Inc. in San Jose, California (  Biodiesel is a liquid fuel that can be used in place of, or blended with petroleum derived diesel fuel. Biodiesel can be produced with wasted oils such as vegetable oil, which is a renewable alternative energy source.
The company was incorporated in 2005 to commercialize the concept of a “distributed urban biodiesel plant” for California.

Walter held a series of engineering, marketing and management positions at General Electric, Monsanto Industrial Chemical Company, Kiethley Instruments, National Semiconductor, NEC electronics and LSI Logics. These positions provided experience in electronic design, instrumentation, process development, and marketing as well as engineering and marketing management.

Walter earned a BS in engineering from Cleveland State University with post graduate work in engineering and marketing at San Jose State University and Golden Gate University.

Tai-Ran Hsu.  A Professor with the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, San Jose State University, San Jose, CA 95192-0087. (

His professional career began as a design engineer in large steam generation equipment industry with Montreal Locomotive Works and Combustion Engineering in Canada, and later as a research officer at the Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd specialized in nuclear reactor fuel systems. He was a development engineer at the Large Steam Turbine Division of General Electric in Schenectady, New York prior to joining the academe. He served as chairs of departments of mechanical engineering at both University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada and San Jose State University between 1990 and 1998. His research experiences in energy include nuclear reactor fuel systems modeling and simulation, bitumen extraction from oil sands, in-situ coal gasification and silicon solar photovoltaic design and packaging.

Tai-Ran earned a BSME degree from the National Cheng-Kung University in Taiwan, an MSME from University of New Brunswick, and a Ph.D (ME) from McGill University in Canada. He has published 72 technical papers in archive journals and authored five books and edited another two in finite element method in thermomechanics, computer-aided design and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS).

Darren T. Kimura.   Darren is the President and CEO of Sopogy Inc., Honolulu, HI 96819. Sopogy is a leader in concentrated solar power technology. (

Darren received a degree in Business Administration from University of Hawaii, and a BSEE degree from Portland State University.  He founded Energy Industries in 1994 and today serves as its Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board.  He also founded 5 energy companies which were acquired by Energy Industries, an Ozone clean tech company which was spun out and a non-profit organization focusing on renewable energy education.  He has significant experience in mergers and purchasing a division of a National Energy Company in 1996, Quantum Lighting (Spokane, WA), Aurora Power (Alaska), and Q-Energy (San Francisco, CA) in 2005.
He is a Certified Energy Manager, Certified Demand Side Manager, Certified Cogeneration Professional, and is Lighting Certified.  He has published 5 papers on energy and holds 1 US patent.

James Robbins.  Jim is the Executive Director of Environmental Business Cluster, San Jose, CA  95113. (

The Environmental Business Cluster (EBC) was the first environmental incubator in the U.S. when it was formed in 1994.  The EBC specializes in technology commercialization of clean and renewable energy technology, and it has commercialization contracts with the California Energy Commission and the U.S. Dept. of Energy. The EBC has the largest private technology commercialization program for clean energy start-ups in the United States.

Jim is also the Founder and a Principal in Business Cluster Development. Since 1994, BCD has helped thirty organizations with the formation of sector-focused incubators. The latest BCD projects include clean energy incubators in Toledo, OH, and Sacramento, CA, and defense and security incubators in North Carolina and Colorado. Jim is also currently the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Business Incubation Association (NBIA), the largest professional incubation association.

Jim is a Co-Founder of the Software Business Cluster, the first software incubator in California. The Software Business Cluster was named Randall Whaley Incubator of the Year for 2000 by the National Business Incubation Association. Over $550 Million in venture investment has been made in SBC companies over the last 4 years, and four SBC companies have gone public. Jim was also a Principal in Panasonic Ventures, a $100 Million dollar investment fund. BCD developed the Panasonic Incubator in 1999. It incubates early stage companies in order to create technology partnerships.

Jim has 30 years experience in the fields of new business formation, organizational design, technology development and management, business operations and law. He is also active in international incubation and has worked in New Zealand, Uganda, Nigeria and Brazil.

Blake A. Simmons.  Blake is a Principal Member of Technical Staff, Nanoscale Science and Technology Department, Sandia National Laboratories, Livermore, California. (

Blake was born and raised in Blair, Nebraska.  After high school, he joined the U.S. Navy where he served as a Nuclear Propulsion Operator for 6 years.  After leaving the Navy, he attended the University of Washington and received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering in 1997.  He then attended Tulane University for his graduate studies and received his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering in 2001.  He then joined Sandia National Laboratories, Livermore, California, as a Senior Member of the Technical Staff in September of 2001.  His research interests include biofuel cells, nanophotonic materials, microfluidics, nanofluidics, desalination, biomineralization, and enzyme engineering.  He has published over 30 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters.  He is currently a Principal Member of the Technical Staff in the Nanoscale Science and Technology Department at Sandia National Laboratories. Outside of his work at Sandia, he has served as a member of the Industrial Advisory Board for two NSF Centers (Keenan Center located at the University of North Carolina and the Center for Nanoscale Chemical-Electrical-Mechanical Manufacturing Systems [Nano-CEMMS] located at the University of Illinois), has organized several conference sessions on nanofabrication and materials science, and has been a proposal review board member for the NSF CAREER Panel and the NIST Center for Neutron Research since 2004.