Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Unique Business Seeks To Popularize Solar Power

Blake Jones had such strange ideas for his company, Namaste Solar Electric, that he confused many business analysts. Jones, whose company sets up solar power systems in Colorado, had this to say, “We did have a lot of skeptical, raised eyebrows at the beginning.”
“We even have had business schools bring teams of MBA students to come to do a case study,” Jones said.
Industry watchers were thoroughly perplexed by some of his company policies:
All company operations would have to be environmentally friendly.
Employees would have six weeks’ paid holiday.
A mechanism called FOH (standing for: frank, open, honest) would be in force in order to remove idle talk and ill will.
All workers, irrespective of their assigned duties, would be entitled to the same pay scale.
One percent of yearly incomes to be spent for the upkeep of solar panels gifted to social groups.
Landmark decisions made by the company to be based on participation of all employees of the company.
Jones probably hit upon some of the offbeat ideas of his company based on the collective experience he gathered during the process of his recovery from serious financial distress. Namaste is a Sanskrit word that is uttered whilst greeting and means “bow to you.” Blake, a civil engineer, was engaged by Brown and Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, belonging to the oil and gas sector, and spent five years working in the Middle East.
“But something in me realized there is something more. I didn‘t like the overdependence that we have on oil and gas. I think oil and gas, even coal are always going to be a very big part of our lives. But I think what we need to do, is we need a more balanced portfolio. I had a gradual awakening to wanting passionately to work with renewable energy because I thought there was a better way,” Jones said.
He traveled from the Middle East to Nepal and spent three years there installing solar and hydroelectric power units in far flung regions.
Although Jones has to cater to entirely different customer requirements in Colorado, solar energy is gaining acceptance as a viable and long-term investment in the state.
Jones selected a place where the residents are habituated to doing things differently. Boulder is an intensely forested land and offered ample scope for the use of renewable forms of energy.
“There is more interest in solar in Boulder then anywhere else in Colorado. That‘s one example of how environmentally focused our community is,” said Sarah Vanpelt, who is in charge of looking after the environmental concerns of the city.
State incentives that would make possible enhanced usage of renewable sources of energy received the approval of Colorado voters in 2004.
“And Boulder provides a rebate on a portion of the sales and use tax that property owners pay to purchase and install a system, and we use those funds to provide grants to nonprofits to install solar on affordable housing, low-income housing, and on nonprofit facilities,” Vanpelt said.
“So I think we will continue to see growth in the green industry and in renewable energy, both solar and wind,” she said.
Namaste is currently undergoing revamping of its warehouse spanning 15000 square feet in order to house its offices.
It’s adhering to the most stringent standards set forth by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification in this endeavor. This implies use of skylight, recycled construction material and making the building reachable by public transportation.
Also, there is no doubt that the building’s energy requirements will be met by solar units that Namaste specializes in. Outside of a solar awning, most of the solar panels will be installed on the roof.
Marc Smerekanicz, construction manager, had to put in some well thought out ingenuity on his part in order to cater to requests to comply with LEED standards.
“Thinking in a different way than what I was brought up to think of as the construction process, that‘s the way of the future,” Smerekanicz said.
The last three and a half years have seen Namaste doing more business than any other company in Colorado. The company has expanded from just three employees to 45 and revenue growth has taken a soar beyond all expectations.
“Whatever perspective you look at, we‘re being profitable, and it‘s exactly what we need to do to prove that our business experiment, that our company model is going to work,” Jones said.

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