Green energy businesses are sprouting up all across Greater Akron, and the region’s entrepreneurial culture is serving the fledgling industry well. Even before Green Energy Technologies’ signature product – the WindCube – hit the market, would-be customers were lined up at president and founder Mark Cironi’s door. The rooftop design uses a wind-tunnel effect to create 60 kilowatts on site. For big box stores, malls, commercial office buildings, industrial sites and even condo complexes, the payback could come as little as three years after factoring in tax breaks and other government incentives.
The WindCube system, designed for big energy users with small footprints, costs $250,000 to $300,000, not including installation. “The demand is enormous,” Cironi says. The company received $2 million in equity financing in 2009 from Roth Bros. Inc. in Youngstown to help finance initial production and commercial launch. The first system went up on Crown Battery’s facility in Fremont in July 2009. Cynthia Bailey launched The Energy Junction LLC in Cuyahoga Falls after realizing that general information about the benefits of renewable energy bombarded a public that had few places to turn for real-world answers about what might work for their homes or businesses. “That was my million-dollar question,” says Bailey, who started the business as an at-home consulting enterprise after losing her 20-year job in marketing and sales. “Nobody knew where to go.” She started the home-based work in April 2008 and held the official “vine-cutting” ceremony for the new company in July 2009. “I wanted to do it in a way that had the quickest impact,” Bailey says. The Energy Junction promotes wind and solar power for homeowners and businesses, serves as a renewable energy broker, conducts energy audits and counsels workers who want jobs in this growing sector. Bailey helps homeowners and companies determine if solar, wind or a combination of the two makes sense for their site, financially and otherwise. “I have an engineering team that I work with and we put a plan together and see if it makes economic sense, and if it does not make sense, I will not sell a system,” she says. If solar is the ticket, Mark Farson is ready to go. Solar Cents LLC, also in Cuyahoga Falls, installs solar systems to supplement conventional heating systems in homes and businesses. The sun shines plenty, even on cold winter days, and a solar system can generate 15 to 30 degrees, says Farson. One client heats his pool to 85 degrees with a solar array in the summer; in October, he flips a few switches and the sun’s power allows him to keep his home thermostat set at 50 degrees. The system will pay for itself in four years. “He was spending $1,000 a month to heat his pool with gas,” Farson says. Businesses also are getting interested. One manufacturer considering a 40-panel array spends $1.5 million a year on heating and cooling; Farson says he could cut his bill by a third. “What you want to look at is your payback,” he says. “If it is more than seven years, you may not want to do it.”