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T H E M A G A Z I N E F O R C A P TA I N S O F I N D U S T R Y

ENERGY LEADERS TODAY www.energyleaderstoday.com

Solar Usage Now:

harnessing the power of the world’s oldest energy source: the sun


T H E M A G A Z I N E F O R C A P TA I N S O F I N D U S T RY

ENERGY LEADERS TODAY

Editor-in-Chief Todd Weaver Editor Diana Doyle Executive Editor Jonathan Mack Assistant Editor Joseph Orange Creative Director Emily Detoro Art Director Stephanie Hess Director of Advertising Julian Vu Production Coordinator Jason Rone Assistant Production Coordinator Elizabeth Macks Photography Editor Ian Palmer Video Director Susan Maybach Editorial Director Kate Darling Editorial Production Rachel Goldberg Copy Editor William Finch Assistant Copy Editor Amy Roberts Content Directors Brandon McBride (W), Aaron McGaskey (SW), Juan Orellana (Int’l), Steve Peters (Nation), Mike Rodgers (Nation), Juan Stewart (NE) Vendor Relations Director Diana Stephens Vendor Relations Eric Miller, Dov Teta Advertising Sales Coordinator Patricia O’Brien Advertising Sales Director Peter Jostens Advertising Sales Moe Kazemi, David Levi, Steve Stone Publisher Steve Reed

oZ WORLD MEDIA, LLC 1330 New Hampshire Avenue Suite B1 Washington D.C. 20036 www.energyleaderstoday.com Energy Leaders Today is a quarterly B2B trade journal that services the energy industry in geothermal, hydroelectric, gas, solar, wind, fuel cell and new tecnhologies. CLT has a readership of 100,000 C-Level executives within the energy industry. We do not accept subscription requests from the general public, however an abbreviated version is available on our website.


solar Usage now

harnessing the power of the world’s oldest energy source: the sun

by Rachel Goldberg


corporate profile | solar

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n the heart of Amish country, Thom Blake is pioneering a new way to harness the power of the world’s oldest energy source: the sun. Blake started out selling woodstoves and solar products in Defiance , Ohio. But when economic incentives for renewable energy evaporated in the face of falling oil prices in the 1980’s, he shifted his focus to manufacturing wood fixtures for retail chains. His business grew successfully, supplying large retailers including Bath & Body Works, Victoria’s Secret , and Abercrombie. Four years ago, Blake was traveling to look at more stores when a new type of solar collector caught his eye. He contacted the manufacturer and became a distributor of the Apricus evacuated tube solar collectors. But the collectors weren’t enough; for solar energy to power a home, it takes an entire system. He teamed up with the Australian company, Rotex, to sell their solar systems in the U.S. Later, Blake branched out to

create Solar Usage Now (SUN). “The SUN Equinox is a residential and commercial system that will revolutionize the way people heat homes and water,” Blake said. “Australia has a lot of business in the solar industry. They decided to bring it over here and they helped me set up my factory.” Blake saw the need for a complete system in the U.S. market when he installed one in his own home. His house, a renovated 19th-century church with an indoor swimming pool, racked up high energy costs each month. So he decided to take action- but installing a solar system turned out to be harder than expected. “I had to drive hundreds of miles to get any solar products,” Blake said. “Every news station covered it because no one’s 1. Finished product for a hotel. Providing all of the domestic hot water. 2. System in a factory preparing to be packed for shipment. Summer 2010 5


corporate profile | solar

doing it. It’s a great idea but difficult to come up with the money.” Though the upfront costs of installing the system were high, he says the system has cut his heating costs by a wide margin. He found that there was a lot of interest in solar energy, but few resources to support it. For people who wanted to go green but didn’t have the time or money, a solar-powered home would seem out of reach. Blake realized that he had to change his tactics. “My company started out as a distributorship, where I thought I was just going to sell collectors and people were going to flock to me and buy,” said Blake. “Well, they flocked to me- but they didn’t buy. As I grew, I realized that I had to do the same thing I did in the store fixture industry-- give people value added incentives, a one-stop shop.” Unlike other companies, which involve a long process of communication between designers and contractors to install a solar system, the SUN Equinox system does all of the work in one place. They design the modular system and produce it so that it can easily be rebuilt and installed in a home or business. The industrious residents of the local Amish community turned out to be an advantage for the young business. “When I needed brass parts or European fittings, I went to other shops and asked them to manufacture them,” said Blake. Horse and buggies were a common sight outside the high-tech manufacturing facilities. The Rotex solar water heating system include several innovative features that distinguish it from others sold in the U.S. The atmospheric tank is insulated with a thick layer of foam and plastic, and the hot water in the tank is used as a storage battery to heat incoming water. The insulated “sanicube” is designed to 3. From left: Craig Glew, General Manager, Rotex Austrailia; Dave Cygan, Chief Combustion Engineer, GTI; John Aitken, Director of Rotex Australia. 4. Operating center for an aquatic pool. 5-6. Setting up an Equinox System at a large aquatic center. 6 Energy Leaders Today

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corporate profile | solar

be as hygienic as possible by providing a fresh water supply as needed, not stored. This prevents diseases or bacteria from growing. The drain-back tank and secondary coil ensure that the system can accommodate the heating needs of a home without freezing or overheating. Because the systems were tested and refined for several years in Australia before being brought here, Blake said, they have proven reliable and effective. They also include modifications to meet the needs of cooler climates. Solar energy’s newness in the U.S. marketplace means it is not wellunderstood, and Blake says many people make easily-avoidable mistakes when installing their solar systems. He points to the “law of diminishing returns”more solar collectors do not necessarily lead to a more efficient system. The SUN Equinox is also designed to be versatile, powering large scale systems as well as residential ones. It can also be used in conjunction with other types of systems. “You can manifold tanks together for commercial jobs,” said Blake. “In Australia, they’ve used them with 600-room hotels, hospitals and military bases.” He is currently talking with large groups in the U.S., including universities and restaurants that are looking to solar as a way to reduce their energy costs. As the benefits of solar become more widespread and visible, interest in the technology is quickly picking up in the U.S. He sees a bright future ahead for the solar industry. “The magnitude of this business can’t even be envisioned; the number of people that can be employed can’t even be envisioned, because this is a whole new industry, and it’s in its infancy,” he said. “The possibilities in solar, as a way to heat a building that can save thousands of dollars plus help the environment, are endless.” ELT 7. A Solar Usage Now employee building a manifold for tank production. 8. An Array of heaters used as the back-up heat source for a hotel. 9-10. Warehouse facility where the tanks are stacked and staged for assembly. All photos courtesy of Solar Usage Now. 8 Energy Leaders Today

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Solar Usage Now Brochure  

Thom Blake, president of Solar Usage Now, is pioneering new ways to harness the power of the sun making helping customers cut their energy c...

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