Sweetwater Energy, Inc., a Rochester-based renewable energy company, announced today it has named company Board Chairman Arunas Chesonis as Chief Executive Officer.
Mr. Chesonis joins Sweetwater with 27 years of technology experience. Most recently, he served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of PAETEC Holding Corp., a Fortune 1000 telecommunications company acquired this month by Windstream Corp. (NASDAQ: WIN), one of the largest national telecom carriers. Mr. Chesonis founded PAETEC in 1998.
“Sweetwater Energy is one of the most exciting opportunities I’ve seen in a long time,” said Mr. Chesonis. “Sugar is the new oil. Most of the products, including plastics and biochemicals that have been traditionally made from petroleum, are increasingly being made from sugar, a sustainable and renewable resource that we can economically manage. I’ve been working with companies and universities across the renewable energy spectrum in the last several years to develop new technologies that are ready for prime time, and it’s extremely gratifying to join such a promising young company right here in Rochester.”
Sweetwater Energy uses a unique technology to produce low-cost sugars in a water-based solution from non-food plant materials. This sugar solution is sold to refineries, which use it to produce biofuels, biochemicals, and bioplastics. Unlike petroleum-based technologies, Sweetwater Energy’s process uses renewable plant materials that are not only grown domestically, but significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled to bring Arunas on board full time,” said Jack Baron, who has led Sweetwater Energy as CEO since before its incorporation in 2009. “Arunas and I have long talked about how the renewable energy sector is a new frontier where large-scale monopolies like big oil companies are facing brand new competition from companies like Sweetwater Energy. In many ways, the industry is much like telecom back when we founded PAETEC.”
Mr. Baron, also a co-founder and president of PAETEC, also led that company’s energy division. He will become Sweetwater Energy’s new President and Chief Operating Officer when Mr. Chesonis joins. Mr. Baron left PAETEC in 2008 specifically to develop a startup company with a technology that could find significant traction in the current business climate. Mr. Baron has a biochemistry and neuroscience degree from the University of Rochester.
Mr. Chesonis has a long history in renewable energy. His private philanthropic organization, the Chesonis Family Foundation, supports environmental and renewable energy research projects, and has given $10 million to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to support breakthrough technology research to address climate change and sustainability. Mr. Chesonis began his career at Rochester Telephone Corporation and went on to serve as President of ACC Corp. until it was purchased by TCG/AT&T in 1998. He’s received the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the Herbert W. Vanden Brul Entrepreneurial Award by the College of Business at Rochester Institute of Technology and was elected to the Rochester Business Hall of Fame. In 2011, the telecommunications site, FierceTelecom, ranked Mr. Chesonis in their elite list of the 15 Most Powerful People in Wireline Telecom. He holds a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an MBA from the William E. Simon Graduate School of Business at the University of Rochester, and an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from the University of Rochester. Mr. Chesonis is also a member of the M.I.T. Energy Initiative (MITEI) External Advisory Board and is a trustee of the University of Rochester.