Professor Robert Foster

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Robert Foster is an international renewable energy expert with over 35 years experience in 43 countries. He has supported dozens of international RE development programs for DOE, USAID, World Bank, ADB, UNDP, NASA, NREL, NSF, USTDA, DFID, Sandia National Labs, Winrock International, Relief International, Sheladia, GiZ, ADB, DFID, as well as several national governments.

Robert provides expert technical analysis including site assessments, loads assessments, feasibility studies, market studies, system sizing and design, project implementation. He has managed many multi-million dollar clean energy development projects. He conducts technical education and capacity building.

Robert is an innovator and helped pioneer the solar home system (SHS) concept in the Dominican Republic in the mid-1980’s while he was a Peace Corps volunteer working with Enersol. He conducted research on PV-wind-diesel mini-grids in the 1990’s in Latin America for Sandia and NREL. He helped pioneer direct drive solar chilling with industry and piloted the world’s first PV ice-maker in Mexico, and later with Solar Milk Chillers in Kenya for smallholder farmers on project with USAID and IFAD. He co-founded SolAqua in 1999, and has 8 patents on solar water purification technologies.

He was a Senior Program Officer for the Winrock International Clean Energy Group from 2014-19 supporting programs in Colombia, Georgia, Guinea, Indonesia, Kenya, Malawi, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe. Presently he is a technical advisor to Winrock for SUNREF (Sustainable Use of Natural Resources and Energy Finance) in Nigeria.  Recently he has been also advising Relief International on solarizing its' refugee camps in the Middle East.

Robert was the lead technical solar advisor for the World Bank rural electrification programs in Nicaragua (PERZA) and Honduras (PIR) during the 2000’s developing technical standards, system monitoring, and conducting capacity building activities for technician certification for World Bank. He later worked in Afghanistan from 2008-12 as the Chief Engineer for the USAID Afghanistan Clean Energy Program, where he was responsible for the implementation of over 1,500 PV and hydropower systems for a wide variety of applications including mini-grids. He was the commissioning engineer for the 1 MW PV-diesel mini-grid for the town of Bamiyan with Sustainable Energy Services International for the Government of New Zealand in 2013-14. This system includes both on and off-grid inverters, charge controllers, battery bank with automated watering, and a widespread electric grid serving 25,000 residents. He established the Kabul University Renewable Energy Laboratory in 2010, developing a RE energy curriculum that includes micro-grids and performance testing that is still in use.

Robert retired in 2014 after 25 years of meritorious service from the NMSU College of Engineering, where he supported the DOE National Photovoltaics Program through the Southwest Region Solar Experiment Station, one of the original three DOE national PV research stations established in 1981. He led DOE international activities with a focus on Latin America. Robert was the Technical Manager for the DOE/USAID Mexico Renewable Energy Program managed by Sandia National Labs (SNL) from 1992-2005, where he conducted capacity building for Mexican engineers and communities, wrote technical specifications, and led implementation of over 5,000 solar and wind projects including mini-grids. He also led Sandia solar activities in Central America. He was the DOE Solar America Initiative Tiger Team Lead for Texas. In Africa, he has worked in Kenya, Guinea, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe on solar and geothermal projects. 

Robert is past President of the El Paso Solar Energy Association, as well as past Chair of the Texas Solar Energy Society. He has conducted over 250 RE trainings and technology courses in over three dozen countries for more than 10,000 engineers, technicians, and financiers. He is an assistant professor teaching solar energy at NMSU College of Engineering.

Robert is presently the Team Leader with Sheladia Associates for implementing the Solar Photovoltaic Pumping for Agricultural Irrigation Project under the Asian Development Bank Power System Efficiency Improvement Project with the Bangladesh Rural Electrification Board.

Robert holds a B. S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and a MBA from NMSU. He has co-authored 4 books, published over 150 papers/articles, and written over 100 RE technical reports on renewable energy technologies and projects.


New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico, United States
Masters of Business Admistration, 1999
PV business and markets emphasis
1995 To 1999
Dissertation: Masters Thesis: Photovoltaic Market Development and Barriers in Mexico
Advisor: Dr. Soumen Ghosh

University of Texas at Austin
Austin, Texas, United States
B.S. Mechanical Engineering, 1984
solar energy emphasis
1980 To 1984
Dissertation: Senior Project: Austin Solar Resource Monitoring Station Installation
Advisor: Dr. Gary Vliet