by Thomas E. Mitchell, Jr.
There aren’t many entrepreneurial fields where an entrepreneur can earn a dollar while fulfilling a societal need. One such field is the burgeoning renewable energy industry.
With the nation and the world “going Green,” entrepreneurs and venture capitalists are taking advantage of this new business frontier.
Lorenzo Brown and Daren Daniels are among those daring “Green Entrepreneurs (or should that be “Greentrepreneurs”?), who not only see “green” in the new “Green Movement” for themselves, they also envision creating “green” for the community’s jobless and their families in the form of employment and business opportunities.
Brown, who is the CEO of ReEnergyWorks, Inc. and Daniels, the vice president of operations for Solar Synthesis, have formed a joint partnership to expose the urban market to the advantages of renewable energy and conservation.
Daniels and Brown also hope their efforts will serve as a model to young people and show them the potential job and business opportunities that await them—with the proper education—in the field.
The two companies work together doing site assessments of structures—homes or business buildings. The assessment process starts first with a look at a structure’s southern face, which uses the most sun.
A determination is then made as to whether or not the structure should utilize solar thermal or P.V. (Photo Voltaic, which is solar engineering technology that uses semi-conductors to convert solar radiation into electricity). Calculations are also made as to the amount of power being used (and wasted) by an edifice.
“The site assessment is the most important step (in the process),” said Brown, whose company is the first and only African American solar business in the city and state.
Daniels added that after the structure is inspected, a determination is made—based on the data collected—whether or not it needs plumbing and lighting upgrades, weatherization, energy efficient renovation, energy management control upgrades, as well as energy-saving lighting.
“(For instance) if a building’s owners were to change from florescent to LED light bulbs, they’d save some 20% in costs,” Daniels said.
The findings and recommendations are put into a summary report and is presented to the client.
The partnership has already born fruit. They recently completed 35 site assessments for homes being constructed by Habitat for Humanity.
Daniels’ company is currently working on the Bishop Creek project under construction along Hampton Street.
A number of companies have expressed an interest in working with two companies. They are partnering with Helios Solar Panel, a Photo Voltaic installation company owned by Steven Ostengra, to partake in a $3 million grant to build a new manufacturing plant near the Potawatomi Bingo and Casino in the Menomonee Valley.
The pair is also working with Bill Gainer, Johnson Controls’ manager for renewable energy. Brown and Daniels credit Gainer and his company with helping them get their joint venture up and running.
Brown and Daniels hope to secure other deals that will utilize their renewable energy companies and respective skills in the coming months.
They both agree that a partnership like theirs is the best way to go regardless of the type of business it is—especially for start-up businesses. “It off sets costs and allows you to share personnel and resources,” Brown said.
Daniels and his company were invited by Brown to partner-up. “My company acts in a management capacity (on projects) while Lorenzo’s company handles the operation capacity,” Daniels said.
Both men believe in “social entrepreneurism” in which they combine business with a social or human factor. “We meet our bottom-line by reaching out to the community,” said Daniels, who is a firm believer in the economic self-empowerment philosophy of African American author and economist Dr. Claud Anderson, whose book, “Powernomics” is seen by many in the Black community as a blueprint for the economic and social future of Black America.
Daniels said it’s harder for businesses and entrepreneurs to be successful if they have an individualistic mind-set and compete against each other. “If we work together, we will accomplish more,” he said.
“We have the same vision,” Brown said of himself and Daniels. “We believe in community empowerment and creating jobs within the community.”
Both entrepreneurs say Black involvement in the renewable energy industry is small. “We’ve gone to meetings and conferences and we’re the only two Black people (there),” Brown said, adding the city’s school—both public and private—should design curriculums around renewable energy.
“We need to get kids involved in renewable energy and other jobs within the industry,” Brown continued. “Wisconsin is a progressive leader in this industry. Hopefully with mine and Darren’s involvement, we (can) spark interests at the front end of this renewable energy wave.”