Business is cooking at TenKsolar as innovation drives down the cost of producing electricity, according to CEO Joel Cannon.
The Bloomington company, where employment has doubled to 60 since last year, expects to achieve an annualized revenue "run rate" approaching $100 million by the end of 2012 and produce electricity from its solar arrays atop commercial buildings for as little as 8 cents per kilowatt hour, a price that's competitive with traditional fuels.
And it's down from 45 cents in 2008.
"Solar is on pace to produce and sell a kilowatt hour off a rooftop array for less than you can purchase it from the utility grid," Cannon said. "We will target niches in the market where we have an advantage."
TenKsolar was one of the presenters this month at the annual Cleantech conference by the Collaborative, which includes entrepreneurs and financiers.
The TenKsolar system has gotten international attention for its redundant array of integrated solar (RAIS) wave technology that produces up to 50 percent more energy per square foot than a standard solar array. The technology uses a 3M-produced reflective coating that heightens system efficiency.
Cannon, 46, is a veteran entrepreneur whose former company, Cannon Technologies, pioneered utility industry innovations such as electric-demand response systems, smart-thermostats and smart-metering solutions before it was sold for $190 million in 2006. His partner is Dallas Meyer, 48, a Ph.D. electrical engineer who once was a Seagate scientist.
The company was capitalized in 2008 with $8 million of their own and other investors' money.
Demand is driven by commercial building owners who want to cut their utility bills with rooftop systems, selling excess power back to utilities. Demand also has come from utilities that are diversifying their generation portfolios. Federal and state tax incentives and renewable energy mandates have helped drive the industry.
Initial production of TenKsolar arrays starts in Shanghai, China, home to the world's largest solar cell manufacturers. About 60 percent of the panel is constructed at the company's Bloomington factory.
"Why Minnesota?" Meyer said. "We have a lot of technology in our panel. We want to control our intellectual property. We also have gotten a lot of state and local support without which we wouldn't have made it thus far."
Meanwhile, several dozen Minnesota companies will participate in a "Solar manufacturing supply chain roundtable" at the 3M Innovation Center on June 1.
The event, sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, is in partnership with the Minnesota High Tech Association, the Minnesota Solar Energy Industry Association, the Blue Green Alliance and others. More information: www.regonline.com/solarroundtable.
There are more than 100 solar-related businesses and nearly 1,200 workers in the Minnesota solar industry, according to the Minnesota Department of Commerce and the Solar Foundation.
LOTS OF BIG LOSERS GAIN HEALTH
Minnesota's "Biggest Losers" are 22,000 participants from 4,000 teams who lost an average of 4 pounds apiece and improved their diet and health during the January-through-April Biggest Loser Minnesota Challenge, sponsored by the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota. The contest was powered by RedBrick Health's online social-engagement program.
The winner in the weight loss category was the Twin Cities Radio Personalities team, made up of local radio station employees, who lost the most weight as a team.
The employees of General Mills won competitions for levels of exercise and good nutrition.
There are no losers here.
"Being able to sign up as a family made it easy for us to make healthier choices together," said Keith Trotter, an employee of Medica, an alliance member. "We started eating out less and finding healthier ways to stay active ... My family has lost more than 33 pounds combined. We have a new outlook on life and we are going to keep going even though the challenge is over."
RedBrick Health, a technology and services company that works with employers, makes use of teams, social networking, online tracking programs and incentives to promote higher employee engagement in health programs and a better return for employers, the company says.
NO BARRIERS IN THIS CONTEST
Five Minnesota-based teams of three able-bodied people and two people with disabilities are training for a three-day race that includes mountain bikes, white-water rafts and rope climbing in the Colorado Rockies in June.
Erik Weihenmayer, the only blind man to summit Mount Everest, is leading the expedition with his nonprofit organization No Barriers USA, which helps people with disabilities live fuller and more active lives.
Weihenmayer's Mound-based No Barriers USA organization created the STRETCH Adventure Team Challenge for Minnesota-based Prouty Project, a strategic planning and organization development firm.
"We want to educate ourselves and the community about the opportunities and challenges present when one is vulnerable and taking risks that require a high degree of trust -- regardless of ability, disability or possibility," said Chairman Jeff Prouty.