Guenther Cramer, German Solar-Power Industry Pioneer, Dies at 62

Guenther Cramer, who co-founded SMA Solar Technology AG and was one of the dominant forces in Germany’s bid to become a leader in clean energy, has died. He was 62.

He died Jan. 6 “after a long, difficult illness,” Niestetal, Germany-based SMA Solar said today in an e-mailed statement.

In 1981, Cramer co-founded the forerunner of SMA Solar as a small engineering firm before turning it into the biggest maker of inverters that convert power from solar panels for use on the grid. As chief executive officer, he oversaw its initial public offering in 2008 when SMA Solar was listed on the Frankfurt stock exchange.

“Guenther Cramer helped set in motion and drive a development that has become permanently established around the world: the change in power supply structures from centralized, large-scale conventional power plants to decentralized renewable power generation units,” SMA Solar said in the statement.

When Cramer started the company, solar panels were almost nonexistent in Germany. Today, about 1.5 million solar plants are spread across the country as Germany phases out nuclear energy by 2022.

The German government helped investment in solar and wind installations to surge when it introduced above-market subsidies to plant owners more than a decade ago under Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. German consumers have contributed more than 100 billion euros ($118 billion) to clean-energy installations.

Early Life

Cramer was born on Dec. 19, 1952, and grew up near Cologne, Germany, according to a 2012 article in the newspaper Hessische Niedersaechsische Allgemeine.

After studying electrical engineering at the University of Kassel from 1974 to 1978, he co-founded SMA Solar with Peter Drews and Reiner Wettlaufer, two friends from his days as a student, with the support of Werner Kleinkauf, a professor at the university.

Cramer headed Germany’s BSW-Solar industry group from 2009 to 2012. In 2011, he set up a foundation in his name that helps electrify remote regions in developing countries, using renewable energies.

Cramer was married and had a son, according to the article.

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