Colorado Companies to Watch spotlight: SkyFuel Inc.

Snapshot: SkyFuel is a concentrating solar thermal technology provider, offering the highest performance, lowest cost utility-scale parabolic trough systems in the world.

Leadership: Richard LeBlanc has been president and CEO of SkyFuel since 2010. The Arvada-based company was founded in 2007.

Work force: SkyFuel ended 2011 with 34 full-time-equivalent employees and expects to grow to 42 employees through this year.

Pivotal moment: SkyFuel’s business evolved from early 1980 designs for parabolic trough concentrating solar power (CSP) installed at the Solar Energy Generating Stations (SEGS) in California. Older systems using glass mirrors required a heavy and costly support structure yet demonstrated marginal optical accuracy. To improve the mirrors, in 1992 NREL began to develop a high-performance, low-cost reflective film. This work was completed by ReflecTech Inc. (a SkyFuel subsidiary) in 2008.

Competitive Edge: The company’s ReflecTech mirror film, which forms the basis of the cost advantage for its SkyTrough (25-30 percent less than competing designs), is protected by two U.S. patents, as well as a variety of international patents (both issued and pending), all of which are held by NREL and exclusively licensed to SkyFuel’s subsidiary, ReflecTech Inc.