G6 Power Solutions emerges to serve rapidly growing market

G6 Power Solutions has created a niche in Iowa with its hybrid system that uses solar panels and wind turbines.

G6 Power Solutions has created a niche in Iowa with its hybrid system that uses solar panels and wind
turbines.

In business, people often stick with what they know, but some individuals will look to that horizon, willing to take some risks along the way.

Scott Griffin and Janet Miller, owners of G6 Power Solutions, are two of those individuals. They jumped into the growing solar energy market and are seeing quick growth in their co-venture’s first full year by introducing a new energy opportunity to farmers, manufacturers, local businesses and city governments around central Iowa.

The transition to alternative energy

While G6 Power Solutions has only officially been in business for a little over a year, Griffin and Miller have been working in similar industries for many years, preparing for the organization that they have today.

Griffin spent the first 20 years of his career working in the construction industry as a general contractor for housing developments and remodeling, commercial construction and tool sales. Around five years ago, he started to explore possibilities in the growing alternative energy
market.

“I have always focused on ways to create additional revenue streams, especially during the recent recession,” Griffin explains. “And while homebuilding and remodeling wasn’t hit nearly as hard in Iowa as in other parts of the country, I knew I had to start looking at the future by identifying potential growth areas in the economy.”

During that period of time, wind turbine construction was taking off in the state. Griffin was intrigued and started talking with representatives of local utility companies about this growing alternative energy source.

“While the wind industry was experiencing a tremendous uptick, many of the engineers I visited expressed concerns about the energy source,” Griffin says. “They explained to me that wind fluctuates too much. It makes a lot of power in a short period of time but is not reliable for consistent power. I took that as a personal challenge to find a better way of doing things. I wanted to develop a system that could deliver consistent energy for potential customers, while keeping the utility companies happy.”

While still just a hobby for Griffin, he began to look at ways to incorporate solar energy with wind energy. He started having conversations with a manufacturer of capacitors and developed a concept that would combine wind, solar and capacitors to provide energy on a consistent basis. This concept is now a reality — it is the system that G6 Power Solutions installs today, and his customers benefit greatly from reduced demand charges.

As the concept started to take off, Griffin met Miller, and they quickly realized that they would be great business partners in this new company because of their common interests.

Opportunity in rising costs

Miller was introduced to the alternative energy movement while working in sales in the HVAC industry, where she saw the push utility companies’ were making for responsible energy. She also understood that businesses and homeowners were going to experience a significant increase to their utility bills over the next several years.

“At some point, the appliances and machinery we use will not be able to get much more energy-efficient,” Miller says. “I believe that giving people ways to produce their own energy will be the only way to offset the increasing costs of energy.”

Creating a network
Scott Griffin (pictured) and Janet Miller, owners of G6 Power Solutions, create a broad reach by training more people to install systems.

Scott Griffin (pictured) and Janet Miller,
owners of G6 Power Solutions, create a broad reach by training more people to install systems.

Griffin and Miller didn’t just want G6 Power Solutions to be another construction company specializing in the installation of solar panels and wind turbines. They believed that growth in these markets is happening right now, and they knew that the business model they were creating needed to scale up very quickly. Knowing that construction companies are always looking for ways to earn extra money during lean times, G6 Power Solutions could stay small while still having a broad reach by simply training more people to install systems.

They also created a grassroots marketing effort that would bring potential customers to them through referral programs that incentivized their colleagues and business partners to help them expand their prospects.

They called this program an Alternative Energy Network, and it has become a crucial part of their business model — it has enabled the company to focus on educating people and creating win-win opportunities.

Selecting the right suppliers

Another important element to the G6 Power Solutions business model has been creating a strong bond with the right industry suppliers. Griffin believed one of the hurdles facing the industry was overly complicated system designs that require too much time to install.

“It was important to us to pick partners who have spent time on jobsites and understand the challenges contractors face,” Griffin explains. “For example, we found Zilla, a solar racking and solutions manufacturer in Colorado — the owner used to be a framing contractor, and his company has developed a better system that installs faster.

“We have built patented helical pier anchors that can be installed directly into most soil conditions, eliminating days from a job because installers no longer have to pour concrete anchors,” says Dave Kreutzman, president of Zilla. “Our systems’ design allows the contractor to reduce labor costs and does not require special installation equipment.”

Zilla’s helical pier anchors are drilled directly into the soil below frost lines using an auger attachment on a skid steer loader, tractor or other tool-carrier machine.

By selecting the right suppliers and developing an efficient process, G6 Power Solutions is able to get jobs done faster.

Finding a niche

While Iowa does not rank among the top solar energy states in the country, G6 Power Solutions has found a niche category in the agriculture market. Poultry, hog and cattle farms use a lot of energy and are always looking for ways to reduce their expenses.

Creating a strong bond with the right industry suppliers has been key to G6 Power Solutions’ strategy.

Creating a strong bond with the right industry suppliers has been key to G6 Power Solutions’ strategy.

“Farmers are the ultimate entrepreneurs,” Griffin says. “They want to be as independent as possible, and we are able to provide solutions that offset their energy usage — something they have never been able to do before.”

“Farmers have also been a great market for us because we can help them reduce their tax burden,” Miller adds. “Oftentimes, farmers will invest in new equipment to help offset taxes. By installing alternative energy systems, they are investing in something that will save them money today and down the road.”

The systems that G6 Power Solutions install for agricultural facilities vary, but their hybrid system that uses solar panels and wind turbines provides customers with the greatest benefit.

“Our recommendation for each customer has a lot to do with the way their utility company meters,” Griffin says. “While the majority of the utilities do not allow net metering, adding wind to a system makes a lot of sense for customers who have utilities that do allow for it.

“In Iowa, for example, customers using solar or wind individually may only be producing energy around 46 percent of the time. By combining solar and wind into one system, our customers increase production to more than 90 percent of the time,” Griffin adds.

Starting strong

The first year of operation for G6 Power Solutions has been a good one. This small organization believes they owe that success to focusing on showing others the advantages of alternative energy use, investing in developing new programs that will reduce or eliminate any upfront costs for their customers and actively looking for like-minded individuals to be of their Alternative Energy Network.

Todd Versteeg is with Signature Style PR + Marketing, Urbandale, Iowa.

— Solar Builder magazine

Rooftop Mounted Wind Turbines That Make Homes Self-Sufficient

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When it comes to renewable energy, wind turbines are certainly one of the greener and more sustainable options. Their biggest drawbacks is that they have to be large to produce enough energy, and that they make a lot of noise, which is why they haven’t yet been widely adopted by homeowners. However, The Archimedes, a Holland-based renewable energy start-up is currently working on a solution to this problem. They are designing a wind turbine small enough to be mounted on the roof of a typical home, but which is still highly efficient at converting wind to energy and does so nearly soundlessly.

onroof

According to the company, this so-called Liam F1 turbine would be able to generate 1,500 kWh of energy per year at wind speeds of 5m/s, which is enough to satisfy about half of an average household’s energy use. If combined with a rooftop mounted solar PV array, the system would generate enough energy to take a home off-the-grid.

turbs

The blades of the Liam F1 turbine are shaped like a Nautilus shell, which enables the turbine to be pointed into the wind and therefore capture the maximum amount of energy, yet remain silent. This type of turbine design was invented by Marinus Mieremet, who is certain that the power output of the Liam F1 turbine is 80 percent of the theoretical maximum energy that could be harnessed from the wind.

According to Mieremet, the design of the Liam F1 is such that it will start to spin even when the wind is blowing at an angle of 60 degrees into the rotor. The turbine also does not need expensive software to run since its conical shape allows it to automatically open itself into the optimal wind direction, much like a wind wane would. The silent operation is guaranteed since there is so little resistance encountered by the turbine.

Each Liam F1 wind turbine weighs 75 kg, and is made from fiberglass and RVS. The company is currently working on an even smaller wind turbine which could be used to power LED lampposts or on boats.

lamps

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Go Off-The-Grid With Windpax

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A wind turbine can be used to generate power even at night, which is the main advantage it has over solar panels. However, its size and complicated set up remains the biggest disadvantage. At least when it comes to camping trips, or other instances of needing renewable power on the go. Well, those troubles could be at an end by the use of Windpax. The latter is a portable wind turbine, which is fully collapsible and will not take a lot of space in your backpack. Its designers are currently using Kickstarter to fund its production.

folded

The Windpax is designed as a vertical turbine and works by “cupping” the air using three collapsible fins to spin the turbine and create power using an internal generator. Inside the turbine there is also an internal battery stick that has USB and Mini-USB hookups. The battery is removable and can be reattached easily by sliding it into the turbine shaft. In other words, gadgets and devices can easily be charged straight form the turbine, or from the battery. The Windpax turbines can be set up in less than 2 minutes and are capable of generating power from a breeze. As an added safety features, the fins used by the turbine are made of plastic to avoid accidental injury.

connector

Windpax makes two types of turbines, namely the hiking model called the Wisp and a more powerful model called the Breeze. The Wisp can fit easily into a backpack, since it is only 14 inches long and 3 inches wide when collapsed, and weighs less than 4 pounds. Once assembled it has a total height of 6 feet, and generates 25 Watts of electricity, which is enough to power 6 cell phones simultaneously at average wind speeds. The fully charged battery stick can charge 3 iPhones.

wisp

breeze

The Breeze, on the other hand, is more powerful, and measures 22 inches in length when collapsed. Once assembled it has a total height of 10 feet. It weighs around 9 pounds and also comes with a 12V port as well as the USB connectors. This model generates 100 Watts, which is enough to charge a laptop and an iPhone at average wind speeds. A fully charged battery can power 3 iPads on a single charge.

The battery of the turbines also has an LED light integrated into it, which can become a flashlight when detached. The entire turbine can also act as a lamp while the battery stick is installed.

light

The makers are looking to raise $50,000 to fund the production of these turbines. The Kickstarter campaign ends on June 17, 2014 and a $120 pledge is enough to secure a Wisp, while the Breeze model costs $245. If the funding goals are met, the Windpax turbines will be ready to ship in September 2014.

iphone

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Pew Report Reveals Which Country is Winning the Clean Energy Race

cleanenergyracefeech

The Pew Charitable Trusts’ latest report gives data on clean energy investment and deployment the feel of movie box office rankings or mid-season baseball stats.

The organization considers a variety of categories and measurable figures, pitting nations against one another to answer one question—Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race?

With so many categories, it’s not the easiest question to answer. Still, a look at the report shows that China stands ahead of the rest of the G-20 nations.

China topped worldwide, renewable energy investment in 2013 with $54.2 billion. It also finished first in terms of installed renewable energy capacity with 191 gigawatts (GW). The U.S.’ capacity came in second with 138 GW.

[blackoutgallery id=”329330″]

Overall, clean energy investment fell 11 percent last year to $254 billion. That marks the second straight year of decline after a record investment of $318 billion in 2011.

Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew’s clean energy program, says that’s not necessarily reason for panic.

“Despite a slow recovery from a global recession and damaging policy uncertainty, the clean energy industry has established itself as a $250 billion component of the world economy,” she said. “While there was an overall decline in investment, there are signs that the sector is reaping the rewards of becoming a more mature industry. Prices for technologies continue to drop, making them increasingly competitive with conventional power sources.

“Key clean energy stock indexes rose significantly in 2013, with public market financing up by 176 percent. Markets for clean energy technologies in fast-growing developing countries are prospering, because these economies view distributed generation as an opportunity to avoid investments in costly transmission systems.” 

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Windmills are Beautiful

beautifulwind

dsuzukiI have a cabin on Quadra Island off the British Columbia coast that’s as close to my heart as you can imagine. From my porch you can see clear across the waters of Georgia Strait to the snowy peaks of the rugged Coast Mountains. It’s one of the most beautiful views I have seen. And I would gladly share it with a wind farm.

beautifulwind

Our perception of beauty is shaped by our values and beliefs. Some people think wind turbines are ugly. I think smokestacks, smog, acid rain, coal-fired power plants and climate change are ugly. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Sometimes it seems I’m in the minority. Across Europe and North America, environmentalists and others are locking horns with the wind industry over farm locations. In Canada, opposition to wind installations has sprung up from Nova Scotia to Ontario to Alberta to B.C. In the U.K., more than 100 national and local groups, led by some of the country’s most prominent environmentalists, have argued wind power is inefficient, destroys the ambience of the countryside and makes little difference to carbon emissions. And in the U.S., the Cape Wind Project, which would site 130 turbines off the coast of affluent Cape Cod, Massachusetts, has come under fire from famous liberals, including John Kerry and the late Sen. Edward Kennedy.

It’s time for some perspective. With the growing urgency of climate change, we can’t have it both ways. We can’t shout about the dangers of global warming and then turn around and shout even louder about the “dangers” of windmills. Climate change is one of the greatest challenges humanity will face this century. Confronting it will take a radical change in the way we produce and consume energy—another industrial revolution, this time for clean energy, conservation and efficiency.

We’ve undergone such transformations before and we can again. But we must accept that all forms of energy have associated costs. Fossil fuels are limited in quantity, create vast amounts of pollution and contribute to climate change. Large-scale hydroelectric power floods valleys and destroys habitat. Nuclear power plants are expensive, create radioactive waste and take a long time to build.

Wind power also has its downsides. It’s highly visible and can kill birds. But any man-made structure (not to mention cars and house cats) can kill birds—houses, radio towers, skyscrapers. In Toronto alone, an estimated one million birds collide with the city’s buildings every year. In comparison, the risk to birds from well-sited wind farms is low. Even the U.K.’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds says scientific evidence shows wind farms “have negligible impacts” on birds when they are appropriately located.

Improved technologies and more attention to wind farm placement can clearly reduce harm to birds, bats and other wildlife. Indeed, the real risk to flying creatures comes not from windmills but from a changing climate, which threatens the very existence of species and their habitats. Wind farms should always be subject to environmental-impact assessments, but a blanket “not in my backyard” approach is hypocritical and counterproductive.

Pursuing wind power as part of our move toward clean energy makes sense. Wind power has become the fastest-growing source of energy in the world, employing hundreds of thousands of workers. That’s in part because larger turbines and greater knowledge of how to build, install and operate them has dramatically reduced costs over the past two decades. Prices are now comparable to other forms of power generation and will likely decrease further as technology improves.

But, are windmills ugly? Mostafa Tolba, executive director of the UN Environment Programme from 1976 to 1992, told me belching smokestacks were considered signs of progress when he was growing up in Egypt. Even as an adult concerned about pollution, it took him a long time to get over the pride he felt when he saw a tower pouring clouds of smoke.

Our perception of beauty is shaped by our values and beliefs. Some people think wind turbines are ugly. I think smokestacks, smog, acid rain, coal-fired power plants and climate change are ugly. I think windmills are beautiful. They harness the wind’s power to supply us with heat and light. They provide local jobs. They help clean air and reduce climate change.

And if one day I look out from my cabin porch and see a row of windmills spinning in the distance, I won’t curse them. I will praise them. It will mean we’re finally getting somewhere.

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