Silicon Valley clean energy pioneer found dead on Beale air base
A man found dead Sunday afternoon from a gunshot wound outside a Beale Air Force Base residential area was a well-known Silicon Valley entrepreneur and clean energy pioneer, according to base officials.
Gary D. Conley, 52, whose most recent corporate venture, b2u Solar of San Jose and Gurgaon, India, was one of several energy-related companies he founded, was discovered by a Beale resident at about 1 p.m. Sunday.
His body was found outside a parked car near the Vassar Lake Gate with a gun in close proximity, according to Brian Wagner, 9th Reconnaissance Wing spokesman.
According to officials at the Air Force Office of Special Investigation, no foul play was involved.
Conley's brother, who lives in Oklahoma, said he and other family members are mystified by details surrounding the body's discovery.
"It's very perplexing," said Mark Conley, 55. "The circumstances don't seem to make much sense."
Gary D. Conley served in the US Air Force from 1979-83, as did Mark Conley and their father before them, according to Mark Conley.
"We're an Air Force family," said his sister, Michele Conley, 59, of Paradise Valley, Ariz., who said her brother was born at McClellan Air Force Base, about a half-hour south of where his body was found.
B2u Solar frequently negotiated military and other government contracts, she said, which would explain his presence in the area.
The energy entrepreneur was named Clean Energy Entrepreneur of the Year in 2005 by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory Growth Forum.
He is credited with having founded SolFocus in 2005 in order to commercialize products created through its predecessor, a research company called H2Go.
That firm, also founded by Conley, began with hydrogen-related energy projects and later switched focus to solar energy.
"He was a genius," Mark Conley said. "He did some really amazing stuff."
According to Michele Conley, he also was a gourmet cook.
Christmas Eve featured an elaborate meal he prepared in their Saratoga home for his wife, Grace, and their two teenage sons.
Gary D. Conley's profile on LinkedIn, an online professional networking site, lists flying, skiing, food, several branches of science, economics and hydroponics among his interests.
B2u Solar, a small startup he founded in 2010, had solar demonstration projects in the works in China, and at the NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field in Mountain View, according to GigaOM, a technolgy news website.
Michele Conley said her brother had been expected to meet a friend at the former Castle Air Force Base outside Merced this week to help with a solar project there.
She last saw him a month ago, she said.
"He was having so much fun, traveling and doing so well," Michele Conley said.
He recently bought a new car, which he did pretty regularly, she said.
The three siblings had been raised by their mother, primarily in Ohio, according to Mark Conley. Their father had been killed when his Air Force fighter jet was shot down over Vietnam in 1967, he said.
"We didn't have any money," said Michele Conley of their upbringing. "Gary was always the whiz kid — the braniac."
She described her brother as a self-made man.
His suspected suicide, she said, is implausible to her.
"He was not depressed. He was like a big kid — always excited about everything. It just makes zero sense," Michele Conley said.
CONTACT Nancy Pasternack at npasternack@appealdemocrat .com or 749-4781. Find her on Facebook at /ADnpasternack or on Twitter at @ADnpasternack.