Former Agilent employees making high-tech product for solar industry

  • Solmetric Corporation president Willard MacDonald, left, and Mark Galli, vice president of product development, are debuting their Solmetric SunEye at Solfest, in Hopland, this weekend. The SunEye provides on-site sun and shade analysis for use with solar panel installation. Photo taken August 17, 2006.
    (The Press Democrat/ Christopher Chung)

Willard MacDonald was a young engineer at Santa Rosa's Agilent Technologies when the bottom dropped out of the telecommunications market.

He didn't wait to be laid off, but he took a voluntary severance package last year.

Now, he's pursuing a dream - starting a business that makes high-tech products for the solar industry.

"I wanted to apply my engineering skills in a way that would be more important to the world," said MacDonald, 35.

He convinced another ex-Agilent engineer, Mark Galli, to join the effort. They built their first invention, the SunEye, in the garage of Galli's Windsor home.

The SunEye is a hand-held digital gadget that measures solar energy with the touch of a button. Builders, architects, solar contractors and landscape designers can use it to measure a location's year-round solar energy potential.

Their company, Solmetric, will introduce the $1,255 device this weekend at Mendocino County's SolFest, the Woodstock of alternative-energy events.

Solmetric is just one of the startups spawned by engineers who once worked for high-profile Telecom Valley companies.

Another startup, Petaluma's Threshold Corp., has just released a home networking device that connects TVs, computers, security systems and other household electronics.

For MacDonald, solar power was a natural direction for his engineering talents.

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