Green Wave’s prototype product – a light pole powered by a windmill and solar panels.
Skeptics might say Mark Holmes is tilting at windmills. The long-time attorney started his new alternative power company, Green Wave Energy, in October 2008, during the depths of the U.S. financial crisis.
“Well, we had a major financial meltdown, everybody was in a panic. Those were really dark days and we figured, what better time to start a company?” Holmes said.
We visited the Newport Beach, Calif. shipyard that is home to Green Wave’s prototype product, a potentially revolutionary light pole powered by a windmill and four solar panels. It operates completely off of the electric grid, and can actually generate enough excess power to run a 1,000-watt appliance.
Green Wave Energy is funded by 33 partners, mostly friends, acquaintances and colleagues of CEO Holmes, whose career as a corporate lawyer included cases involving both the marine and alternative energy industries. Together, they’ve raised a little more than $200,000 in cash, and nearly $3 million in products and services to launch the company. They hope to soon be providing light to places like Haiti and other remote locations without easy access to the electric grid.
One partner’s busy shipyard is where Green Wave’s World Light Pole is tested. Another partner’s SUV and trailer serve as a makeshift wind tunnel, saving the company $50,000 a day. And a third partner’s struggling luxury yacht factory is now Green Wave’s manufacturing facility.
“Most of my background has been working with people in the marine industry, and they are absolutely perfect for developing renewable energy products, because they build to a standard that assumes the worst is going to happen,” Holmes said, adding that the company is using fiberglass to enable its light pole to survive hurricanes, floods and earthquakes.
At the Green Wave partner’s yacht manufacturing facility in Perris, Calif., the recession has slowed business dramatically and forced deep layoffs. But Green Wave is providing hope.
“I think that’s one way of looking at it, they’ve had some very tough times, a significant reduction in force,“ Holmes said. “I think with us coming here and starting up production they are going to be able to bring back a lot more folks, and hopefully several hundred folks, if everything works out right.”
A UC Berkeley study estimates green technology companies could create more than 400,000 jobs in California alone during the next decade.
“These are in general, higher paying jobs. They are engineering jobs, research jobs, higher-paying manufacturing jobs, specialized manufacturing jobs, so they are important,” said Jerry Nickelsburg, an economist at the UCLA Anderson Forecast.
So far, Green Wave has sold just one of its $20,000 light poles. But it’s negotiating two potentially large contracts, including one that could bring the devices to Haiti. Holmes says the business model of “green tech” companies partnering with recession-plagued traditional manufacturers is not unique to Green Wave Energy.
“I think this is the model, if anything. I think there is so much ‘old school’ technology, or old school manufacturing facilities out there that need this sort of re-invigoration. Bringing green technology to those facilities will be basically bringing them back to life.”