Renewable Energy done right A passion for quality work and love of the job drives the small two-man business that specializes in a wide range of solar, wind and hydro projects.
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A Greener Tennessee At Greene Tech Renewable Energy a passion for exemplary work drives the two-man business to perfect the renewable energy industry. by Joel Cornell
Ian Huddleston of Greene Tech Renewable Energy seems to have something of a difficult time settling on his official title within the company. “It’s tough,” said Huddleston, “because I’m the owner and CEO and president or what have you. But also I’m the main designer, the engineer, the maintenance guy, head of HR and accounting, the lead technician/ installer and also the receptionist. All in all, our entire operation is just two dudes who love doing quality work in renewable energy installations and maintenance. It’s just me and my buddy, my master electrician Glenn Rice.” Huddleston and native Tennessean Rice founded Greene Tech Renewable Energy in 2008 after moving to Greeneville, Tenn. Huddleston came from a background of extensive training and experience in the field of HVAC installations, having owned and managed his own business in Florida for many years. “We used to vacation in Tennessee when we were living in Florida,” Huddleston said. “I have some family up here, and honestly Tennessee has some of the most beautiful country in the whole nation. Fortunately, we got out of Florida at just the right time; 2007 was about the time that all the markets started to crash and go nuts. “At first, I decided to move up here to Greeneville and thought I’d just continue in the HVAC business. But I’ve always had a great interest in renewable energy in general, and one morning we got together and decided to go in that direction instead.” Today, Greene Tech Renewable Energy is still just Huddleston and Rice doing what they love. Their range of work is considerable, as well; they specialize in all sizes and scales of systems, including solar, wind and hydro. They have dealerships and a myriad of equipment available from some of the best companies in the industry like SunWize Energy Solutions, Aerostar Wind Turbines and PowerSpout Micro-Hydro, to name a few. From stand-alone photovoltaic systems for a remote barn to a solar and wind hybrid system for a business or large plant, the guys who pick up the phone when you call to order your renewable energy system will arrange it, design it, help you finance it, install it and come to maintain it if and when the need arises. “We occasionally have a couple of helpers who we can contract out to aid us on the bigger projects that come our way,” said Huddleston, “but we don’t just sit back in a fancy office somewhere and watch them do the work for us. When we’re hired, we’re there on site making sure the job is getting done right simply by doing it ourselves. This means we can’t handle 25 projects at one time, but we honestly just feel much better giving one customer our full attention at a time. We’re not trying to work towards some office on the 30th floor or a posh vacation home. We both just really like what we do; it always feels like it’s too much fun to be just a job.”
1. Southwest Windpower Whisper 200 wind turbine in Roan Mountain, Tenn. 2. Tazewell Job. Ian Huddleston, owner of Greene Tech Renewable Energy, installing Sanyo HIT Power N 210W solar modules in Tazewell, Tenn.
Rice has a background of over 20 years as a master electrician, while Huddleston has specialized as an HVAC professional and also in home automation systems. He is also certified and highly trained in a wide variety of systems for solar, wind and hydro. Tennessee is also a great place for renewable energy. This is largely due to the wide variations in terrain: mountains in the east, hills in the central region of the state, and more open flat land in the west. This means that the wind power available in the region is extremely useful, with an average of up to 15 mph winds in the mountains Fall 2010 3
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4 and foothills. The elevation and average sun hours also provides a benefit for any solar PV or solar thermal system. There are a considerable amount of lakes, rivers and streams in the state as well, which makes access to hydroelectricity more widely available than in most landlocked states. The incentives for making the switch to renewable sources of energy in Tennessee are certainly available, though they aren’t quite as large as in some states. The Tennessee Valley Authority offers a $1,000 rebate for any customer who ties a renewable energy system into the grid. There is no feed-in tariff for customers as of yet, but companies like Greene Tech Renewable Energy get a return of 3 cents per kWh for wind and micro-hydro and 12 cents per kWh on solar on top of whatever the going rate is at the time for any residential system they install. It’s a little more for commercial systems. Recently, the majority of the business that Greene Tech Renewable Energy does is for single family residential systems. Due to the economy as of late, much of their work in the commercial sector has dried up. “People always want to switch to clean, renewable energy systems,” Huddleston said. “But for businesses, sometimes it doesn’t quite make perfect sense to put up the money up front for a system that will leave them cash flow positive in a few years. It’s more reasonable for them to stick to traditional sources of energy and worry about that when the economy is more stable and their business isn’t at risk nearly as much. Greene Tech Renewable Energy’s biggest commercial client in recent years has been the Jack Daniel’s distillery in Lynchburg, Tenn. “Now, there is a recession-proof industry for you,” Huddleston said. “They have to pump and aerate their water in the distillery, so they hired us to harness the energy they were wasting with a hydro3. Tazewell Job. 4.2kW grid tied installation in Tazewell, Tenn. using Sanyo HIT Power N 210W solar modules, SMA Sunny Boy inverter and Unirac Solarmount I Clicksys racking. 4. The grid tied with battery back up system with Outback Power Inverter/Charger that powers a Grundfos SQFlex well pump that accompanies the Southwest Windpower Whisper 200 wind turbine in Roan Mountain, Tenn.
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electric installation at their main distillery. We are installing some solar equipment for them as well.” Due to the mountainous terrain in Greene County in eastern Tennessee, where Greene Tech Renewable Energy is located, they have come to specialize in designing custom systems. The wide variations in terrain make for several small pockets of unique little ecosystems that can be difficult to adapt to. However, their extensive knowledge of the area and of the small nuances involved make Greene Tech Renewable Energy an ideal choice for any kind of system. “Just about every job we do is different from the last in some major way,” Huddleston said. “That’s given us a great resource to learn from, which will be invaluable when we begin to expand with the right people some time down the road. However, we’re not going to expand too far, because we never want to get to the point where we stop overseeing the jobs ourselves.” Huddleston is currently working on turning his small business into the subject of a cable television or internet show. “People are really interested in how this stuff works. My job would make a cool show: the challenges of working in the mountains, the variety of interesting customers. If you wanted to watch a TV show about renewable energy, what would you want to see, some soft installer in California at a cookie-cutter home with a cookie-cutter family or me battling the mountain elements in a four wheel drive with real folks in east Tennessee? All we’re looking for is a producer and we’ll do it in no time.” “As much as we want to keep doing our work and letting something we love to do keep a roof over our heads, it’s really important to the both of us that we educate people on renewable energy,” Huddleston said. “We’re trying to do good by showing how affordable these systems are and how well they work. We are also building a positive image for the technology and the industry. I fear that people will start companies and rip people off or sell and install garbage systems and give us all a black eye. Once the markets start to catch up with the technology, renewable energy companies are going to be just as common as plumbers or roofers. “Someday soon, houses would sooner come without indoor plumbing than they would without some kind of invaluable renewable energy source.” ELT 5. Aerostar Wind Turbine Going Up. 100 percent American made in Westport Point, Mass. Aerostar six meter 10kW grid tied turbine. Photos courtesy of Greene Tech Renewable.
EcoInnovation EcoInnovation manufactures and globally distributes the PowerSpout range of hydro product solutions. They are typically used in both on- and off-grid domestic applications. Industrial applications include control power at remote city water storage reservoirs and at larger hydroelectric dams. The product can stack up to 10kW and is commonly employed in 200-3000 W applications. 6 Energy Leaders Today
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Published on Nov 2, 2010
A passion for quality work and love of the job drives the small two-man business that specializes in a wide range of solar, wind and hydro p...