The journey of Thomas Conroy ’79 — from lead startup engineer of the first coal-fired plant in the Dominican Republic to provider of wind and solar power in the U.S. and beyond — may seem as remarkable as his migration from Westfield, New Jersey to the high arid plains of New Mexico.
The new president of Array Technologies, a solar tracking systems company based in Albuquerque, Conroy has spent much of his career bringing energy to the world, often to places that have had little access to it. He looks back with satisfaction on his early years, as well as his more recent work with wind and solar power. Energy access is, he says, “a critical underpinning of human development.” Without electricity, he says, not only do citizens lack basic health requirements, such as refrigeration for food and medicines, but they have no light by which to read, write or educate themselves.
That's why the opportunity to bring solar energy to the 1.4 billion people without current access to electricity is so exciting.
“Being able to contribute to the rapid deployment of clean energy into the world — it’s tremendously rewarding to me personally,” he says. “I think that it’s an important contribution, and I’m really pleased to be able to continue building on my power generation knowledge which all started at Stevens.”
Array Technologies provides the mounting infrastructure for solar panels. Its solar trackers rotate throughout the day to keep the panels oriented directly at the sun and the benefits, according to Conroy, include 20 percent additional power output for 10 percent incremental project cost.
The 150-employee company counts large domestic and international utility companies among its major clients, as well as Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPCs) companies and large and small developers. As president, Conroy’s job is to lead Array as it introduces new products to maintain its leading domestic market share and to expand into international markets as they develop.
Renewable energy sources like solar have been on a steep downward price trajectory over the past five years, with the cost declining 10 percent per year during this period, Conroy says. The U.S. has seen a big push for renewables, including solar, although not a growing demand for electricity, he says. The lack of demand growth, coupled with expected decreases in tax incentives for solar installations, has prompted Array to look internationally for its next big expansion opportunities. Array has an office in Chile, and Conroy sees Latin America as a big emerging market along with the Middle East and Australia.
The Westfield native brings domestic and international energy experience to the job. Joining Foster Wheeler after graduation, he started up coal-fired plants in Spain and the U.S.; among his proudest achievements was the commissioning of the first successful low-NOx coal burners in the U.S. With the power industry “dead” through the late 1980s and 1990s, Conroy, who also holds an MBA from Columbia University, worked for Digital Equipment Corp. and Compaq. He rejoined the energy sector in the mid-2000s when clean, accessible and no-water usage power generation re-emerged as one of the world’s top challenges.
Conroy joined Wind Tower Systems in Utah as president and CEO in 2005, and led commercialization efforts for a utility scale wind turbine tower system that reduces the cost of wind energy by 10 percent or more, Conroy says. The innovative tower allows developers to build turbines to greater heights, where the wind is typically stronger and more laminar. The space-frame structure is also simpler and more economical to transport than existing tubular tower designs. GE purchased the technologies in 2011.
Like so many alumni, Conroy praises Stevens for its rigor and broad curriculum. But one of this mechanical engineering major’s most important memories is signing the Honor Code pledge — a pledge he still embraces in business and in life.
“It was dead clear what the expectations were,” Conroy says. “At the top of every paper, you wrote the pledge. You thought a lot about it. I found it reassuring that Stevens placed such a high and consistent priority on ethical behavior, and I still find that one of the most valuable elements of my Stevens education.”
Top - A view of Array Technologies’ new solar tracking product, DuraTrack HZ v3. Thomas Conroy ’79 serves as the company’s president.
Right - Thomas Conroy ’79 serves as president of Array Technologies.