Erlanger hopes to be energy showcase with CHP plant, TAEBC member assists with development

(NOTE: This article was originally published on Times Free Press.)

Erlanger Health System is building a $13 million natural gas-fired energy system at its main campus which hospital officials believe will be a showcase project for cutting energy, expenses and pollution.

Chattanooga’s biggest hospital plans to install the 8-megawatt Combined Heat and Power facility next year in a former incinerator building to generate most of the electricity and most of the hot water consumed in the 2.5-million-square-foot medical complex on East Third Street.

The Tennessee Valley Authority is providing $6.75 million to match the hospital’s investment under a green energy pilot program designed to encourage more efficiency through combined heat and energy facilities.

“This is kind of perfect model for a CHP (combined heat and power) plant because we will be able to reduce emissions, create a more reliable energy source for the hospital with on-site generation and also save us a great deal of costs on our overall energy bill,” said John Loetscher, vice president of facilities, engineering and real estate at Erlanger who has been working on the project since shortly after he arrived at Erlanger in 2015.

Since hospitals use a lot of steam and hot water around the clock, such facilities are ideal to capture the excess steam and heat generated in a power plant that produces steam to turn turbines to make electricity. The idea behind combined heat and power, or co-generation, is to capture the heat that would normally be wasted in electricity generation and supply it to local buildings as well.

The new system is designed to achieve as much as an 80 percent efficiency, which is nearly double what some traditional power plants get from burning fossil fuel, making steam to make electricity and then distributing that power over long distances.

“We hope this can not only save energy and money but be a real showcase to demonstrate the potential of distributed energy,” said Ben Edgar, president of White Harvest Energy, a 3-year-old Chattanooga company that has worked with Erlanger and TVA to plan and develop the project. “Chattanooga is already known for its smart grid and we hope this can be a model for others as well. We’re going to be one of the highest efficiency CHPs (combined heat and power units) and the modular nature of it is also groundbreaking.”

By having its own generation, Erlanger also expects an extra layer of reliability to its power supply, which already has multiple connections with EPB, the local TVA power distributor, and its own diesel-fired generators for power in the event of an electrical blackout.

Read more here.

Energy Mentor Network Company: One Scientific

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council is featuring the companies benefiting from the Energy Mentor Network program, which offers industry specific expertise from experienced mentors.

The Energy Mentor Network‘s goal is to foster the growth of Tennessee advanced energy technologies and startups by connecting entrepreneurs with mentors. This gives Tennessee yet another advantage in grabbing its more than fair share of the $1.3 trillion global advanced energy market.

The Energy Mentor Network is run by the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council in partnership with Launch Tennessee.

In broad strokes, the Energy Mentor Network pairs mentors with promising new companies and entrepreneurs through a structured program involving panel presentations and mentoring sessions.

The purpose of the program is to develop quality startups. After completing the program, startups will have an investable pitch deck, a rock solid business model and a plan to establish more traction. These tools will position Tennessee’s entrepreneurs to raise capital, request other funds like SBIR grants, and scale their company.

TAEBC is featuring EMN company One Scientific. Headquartered in Johnson City, Tennessee, One Scientific Inc. is committed to empowering the world with a sustainable source of fuel. With specialization in advanced manufacturing research & development, its award-winning team has created two significant early stage products that when commercialized will have the ability to produce a source of sustainable hydrogen for Fuel Cell Vehicle fueling stations and stand-alone fuel cell power generation.

TAEBC is currently accepting applications from Tennessee advanced energy companies to apply for the Energy Mentor Network program. If you are interested in this opportunity, please visit the “For Startups” section of the Energy Mentor Network portion of TAEBC’s website.

EMN company Stone Mountain Technologies awarded DOE BENEFIT funding award

The Building Technologies Office (BTO) announced it is investing up to $15.8 million in 13 projects, including EMN Company Stone Mountain Technologies Inc.’s HVAC&R project, that will drive innovation in early-stage research and development for advanced building technologies.

These innovations will serve as a foundation for future technological developments and reductions in building energy consumption. DOE has said the outcomes and advancements of the selected technologies will ultimately result in improving the efficiency of our nation’s buildings and will help Americans save energy.

The Building Energy Efficiency Frontiers & Innovation Technologies (BENEFIT FOA) awards this year span the building technology innovation spectrum, from novel materials exploration that will lead to more efficient insulation and windows, to exploration and validation of both electric- and fuel-driven hybrid vapor compression technologies for more efficient heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC&R), as well as advanced control algorithms, modeling, and analytics for reducing the power consumption of miscellaneous electric loads (MELs).

Stone Mountain Technologies Inc. will validate and analyze a gas-fired absorption heat pump that uses an ammonia-water absorption cycle.

SMTI is a leading developer of cost effective, next generation heating technologies using sorption heat pump cycles. The company’s “thermal compressor” products enable a major leap forward in the way homes, businesses, and water are heated, reducing energy costs, improving comfort, and lowering CO2 emissions.

TAEBC is currently accepting applications from Tennessee advanced energy companies to apply for the Energy Mentor Network program. If you are interested in this opportunity, please visit the “For Startups” section of the Energy Mentor Network portion of TAEBC’s website.

Business Startup Spotlight: Stone Mountain Technologies

(NOTE: This blog was originally posted on

Name: Stone Mountain Technologies, Inc.

Location: Johnson City, TN


Product / Service Offering: Thermally Driven Heat Pumps

Co-founder Interviewed: Michael Garrabrant, President

Other Key Management Team Members: Scott Reed, VP Strategy & MarketingChris Keinath PhD, Director Engineering

This article is part of our Business Startup Spotlight series featuring entrepreneurs and their companies. We hope that these founders’ interviews will inspire and motivate you as you undertake your own entrepreneurial journey. 

Pictured: Michael Garrabrant, President

Tell us a little about yourself with a focus on what motivates you.

I am the type that always has to be doing something worthwhile and meaningful in the long run. Endless meetings, red-tape, and indecision are very frustrating. To me, there is nothing like 45-minutes on a lawn mower to clear your mind and trigger a good idea.

When did you establish your company and where did the idea originate?

I had the opportunity to learn and work with absorption heat pumps in the 1990’s. Initially as a graduate student at Ohio State University and then with a start-up that licensed the OSU technology. I found the technology fascinating and “addictive.” Although from a high level it appears simple, getting the details right to make it work well, be reliable and cost effective is very challenging. Also, there are a very select group of individuals globally that understand how to do this.

The start-up I joined in the 1990’s “ran out of gas” because it was targeting the wrong market and applications. I felt that the technology would eventually become a major player in the heating and cooling market when the time was right. In late 2008, circumstances in the market and for me personally aligned, and I decided to give it a go. I knew it would be a hard road, but I began Stone Mountain Technologies.

What need or needs does your company seek to fill for its customers?

SMTI is a B2B business model, with our direct customers being gas/oil heating product manufacturers. Indirectly, our customer “base” includes gas utilities, HVAC and water heater contractors, and of course the end-user (building owner or occupant).

Due to steadily increasing DOE minimum efficiency regulations over the last 20 years and technology limitations, conventional gas and oil heating products (furnaces, boilers, water heaters) have very little differentiation left. The products are becoming a commodity, competing more and more on price alone, with market shares evening out among the players. At the same time, electric heat pump technology has advanced rapidly, and has begun to erode market share from gas.

Gas heat pump technology provides a leap in efficiency without sacrificing the comfort gas heating customers are used to. SMTI’s “Thermal Compressor” technology allows the current gas/oil heating equipment manufacturers to offer exciting, new very high efficiency products to their customers, at a much faster pace and with lower risk compared to trying to figure out how to do it themselves from “scratch.”

Gas utilities are mandated to spend a percentage of revenue on efficiency incentive programs. Due to the lack of efficiency differentiation between “good-better-best”, they are struggling to offer incentives that make sense for the consumer. Their core business is also under increasing pressure from climate change driven regulations, especially in California, parts of the Northeast, Canada and Europe; therefore, gas utilities are very excited about the prospect of cost-effective gas heat pumps entering the market and have provided a variety of support, including financially.

What is the one thing that sets your company apart from its competitors?

SMTI has a unique combination of specific market, technology and manufacturing know-how.

What was the biggest challenge you faced while getting your company up and running, and how did you overcome it?

Our biggest challenge was seed funding. Our space is not conventional Angel or VC friendly. Also HVAC/water heating is not “sexy,” is capital intensive, and the development time-frame is long. Fortunately, the Department of Energy, gas utilities (including European), and several OEMs agreed with our premise and business model. We were able to win non-equity funds to develop the core technology and prove it out in the “real world.” My knowledge of the market and reputation with key players was instrumental in raising the funds.

Are there resources you have utilized that other founders might find compelling or useful?

There is a litany of start-up information and business help available on the web. Much of it is very helpful, but it is often contradictory. To apply the knowledge heavily depends on what market your business is in. My advice is to spend evenings and weekends reading and when you think you have read it all start again.  Learn to filter out what makes sense for your specific business type and focus.

90% of start-up business advice out there is tailored to technology companies developing an application or SaaS. Good luck if you are a brick-and-mortar or manufacturing company.

What steps have you taken to secure funding for your company and what, if anything, would you do differently if you had to start over?

We felt we needed to have prototypes in the field. Several OEM customers were “significantly interested” to reduce the amount of risk for a Series A investor. We are at that point, and have initially targeted industry strategic partners who know the market very well to lead our Round A, with Angel groups with a “green” focus (fortunately this is a growing segment) filling in the gaps.

Have there been any questions you have had as an entrepreneur of a fledgling startup that you had a particularly hard time finding the answers to?

There are a dizzying array of financial terms and investment vehicles out there. Unless you spend your entire career entrenched in this area, it’s next to impossible to wrap your mind around all of the variations and the impact on your company. Professional investors definitely have a large advantage over the typical entrepreneur.

What challenges, if any, are you grappling with?

The challenge is how we share ownership of the company with key employees without either causing them a horrible (and at-risk) tax penalty or running afoul of IRS and SEC rules. The current laws are not friendly to small privately-held companies with a decent valuation but are still at a high risk stage.

What is the most helpful tip or “hack” you’ve ever learned, stumbled across, or been given?

There is no substitute for being obsessive and working extremely hard. There are no short-cuts.

Solar Site Design announces 75th construction company to join Commercial Marketplace

Solar Site Design is surging towards more success as the Energy Mentor Network startup announced 75 construction companies are now subscribed to its Commercial Marketplace platform.

Solar Site Design is headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. The company is a collaborative, cloud-based marketplace platform that connects sales-ready commercial and industrial solar projects to top solar construction companies to drive down customer acquisition costs.

“Our marketplace was launched last year during Solar Power International, so this demonstrates the tremendous growth we have acquired since then,” said Jason Loyet, Founder.

Loyet elaborated that his company has an even bigger milestone in mind.

“Our goal is to standardize ‘behind the meter’ commercial solar origination and sign 150 construction companies to join Solar Site Design’s marketplace by the end of this year,” said Loyet.

Solar Site Design will exhibit this year at Solar Power International in Las Vegas on September 10 and will announce a major partnership with a global Fortune 500 solar panel manufacturer that Loyet believes will help his company reach and exceed that goal.

“Our Commercial Marketplace Platform is experiencing tremendous traction, and is servicing commercial and industrial properties nationwide,” said Loyet. “Together with our trusted channel agents, we provide commercial property owners with preliminary engineering and financial modeling and educate them on the costs and benefits of installing solar.”

“As soon as the owners choose to install solar, we connect them with (up to) five competitive construction quotes. Our contractors have real-time access into the Marketplace, where they can see when the owner is ready to move forward. And, they don’t have to pay for the project up front; they only pay when the project is won. It’s a win-win for everyone: building owners lean on their trusted advisor to help them receive competitive pricing and the customer acquisition costs are driven down for the installer,” said Loyet.

Loyet went on to say some of the largest solar construction companies in the Southeast have already joined Solar Site Design’s commercial marketplace. Solar Site Design won the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Catalyst award for its innovation on driving down cost of solar through their innovative software platform.