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SunPower Corporation, the Silicon Valleybased energy company, has a new general counsel and executive vice president, LISA BODENSTEINER. She brings more than 16 years of in-house experience in the energy sector with her. "I've done a lotI started in traditional energy, then moved into work on the cutting edge," she says. "You name it, I've seen it."
Bodensteiner got her start in the industry when, as a partner at Thelen, Marrin, Johnson & Bridges, she took on a real estate client in the energy business. While Bodensteiner was more of a general transactions lawyer at the time, she was soon working exclusively for the client, Calpine Corporation.
Calpine's legal department brought Bodensteiner in-house in 1996. The company was small at the time, and Bodensteiner oversaw much of its growth, negotiating mergers and acquisitions and handling operations and development.
After more than 10 years with Calpine, Bodensteiner joined OptiSolar Inc. as general counsel. There, she learned more about manufacturing, as the company was in the business of building solar farms. Bodensteiner was at OptiSolar in 2008 when the recession dried up financial markets. "It was like the sky was falling," Bodensteiner says. OptiSolar put its project pipeline up for sale, and when First Solar Inc. acquired it, Bodensteiner went along.
First Solar already had a GC, and while there she worked specifically in project development. Then she stepped into a business role, becoming vice president for business development in North America. "It was different," Bodensteiner says, "a very externally facing role," but it was beneficial, too. "It was helpful to serve in a business position. In the energy sector, the lawyers are very much a part of the business team. Energy deals are so complicated, so big, and there's so much risk, that you have to come into the arena with a broad skill set."
Eventually, Bodensteiner was made general counsel at First Solar, and returned to the legal work that she had been missing: "In legal, you get to dabble in lots of different areas of business. I love that breadth in what I get to learn about."
Bodensteiner says that at SunPower, in addition to practicing at a global level, she has the chance to work with a broader array of products.
SunPower was recently acquired almost entirely by Total S.A., a multinational energy company based in France and known for its major role in the oil industry. Bodensteiner is excited to be at a company with a global reach. "It's not easy to walk into these markets," she says. "Total is already on the ground, so it streamlines new markets for energy. With SunPower, I will be doing more international work, so I have the opportunity to do something new."
Bodensteiner earned her law degree from Santa Clara University Law School after completing a bachelor's degree in business and accounting at the University of NevadaReno. Prior to joining Thelen, she worked at the California-based firm Hopkins & Carley.