Doyle Childers certainly knows a thing or two about energy.
The former state senator and state representative said the Division of Energy used to be part of his jurisdiction when he served as director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources from 2005-08. Still, he admittedly didn’t know anything about The Powerhouse, an energy savings system, prior to starting three years ago as a distributor of the product.
What is The Powerhouse?
Childers said at first glance people think the product is just another capacitor bank, which has had multiple variations since the 1960s. Capacitor banks pick up a power surge and store it in the capacitor, letting it drain off into the ground. But Childers said The Powerhouse stores the power into the capacitor and feeds it back into the grid, allowing it to still use the power, thereby saving on electricity.
Clients include hotels, convention centers, hospitals, manufacturers, schools and convenience stores. University Plaza Hotel is one local business using the product, he said. Additional local clients were undisclosed.
Each unit is custom sized based on the client, with most commercial-type operations generally recording average annual energy savings of 10-15 percent, according to Childers.
“This is just a next generation – in effect a leapfrog generation of a whole new capacitor bank,” he said. “Capacitor banks are just a component of this technology.”
Childers is contracted with C3 Green Energy LLC, a Cape Girardeau-based sales and marketing company. In the past five years, the company, which was established in 2013, has installed the product with a wide variety of clients, said C3 Green Energy majority owner Ed Adkisson.
Childers, a Reeds Spring resident, said he is a national distributor, but his jurisdiction focuses largely on the Midwest, including southwest Missouri.
He said a few of his commercial clients have reported a return of investment within six to 18 months.
That timeframe is longer for homeowners, he said, as residential installation and purchase of the unit typically costs $3,500-$4,000.
“Even if you’re saving $100 a month or $200 a month, it still takes a while,” Childers said.
In comparison, Adkisson said commercial installation projects this year have ranged from $15,000 to over $500,000.
Larger companies would see much larger electric bills than consumers, Childers said, with a 10-15 percent savings equating to a quicker return of investment.
Adkisson said Childers, who is one of more than 30 representatives C3 partners with, has impacted the company greatly over the past three years with his influence and knowledge of Missouri.
More than half of the company’s representatives started this year, with large global clients, such as Owens Corning (NYSE: OC), Sealed Air Corp. (NYSE: SEE) and Unilever (NYSE: UN), installing units over the past 12 months. Declining to divulge annual revenues, Adkisson said the company’s sales volume this year is tracking more than the previous four years combined.
C3 purchases The Powerhouse units directly from the manufacturer, Tennessee-based Innovative Energy Solutions Inc., to market them to clients, Adkisson said. He said IES is the owner of all patents for the product, which is UL listed.
“Bringing a new proprietary product to market is challenging, but the benefits that The Powerhouse brings to facilities is so unique that we knew it would be a winner for our clients, the environment and allow us to grow into a viable company,” Adkisson said in an email.
He said about 30 hotel and convention centers, including numerous JQH Hotel & Resorts-built properties now managed by Atrium Hospitality LP, have had units installed nationwide over the past four years. C3 also is contracted to move forward with about 25 more hotels, which is part of the company’s recent growth spurt in clientele and representatives, like Childers.
Boomland, a large-scale convenience store with three Missouri locations, was the first client for C3, with two Powerhouse units installed in 2013, Adkisson said. Clifford Rolwing, Boomland co-owner, said the Charleston location unit cost approximately $12,000, while the Benton store install was slightly less.
Rolwing said he was seeking to save money on electric bills and decided to have the units installed around the same time the company converted to LED lighting.
“The bottom line is it works,” he said of The Powerhouse.
It helps in power consumption in general, he said, but noted the LED lighting installation makes it difficult to determine exact savings. He estimated electric bills have dropped by around 10 percent over the past several years, equating to as much as $2,500 per month.
“For us, that’s pretty big,” he added.
Patterson Logging & Lumber Co. had a Powerhouse unit installed at its Birch Tree sawmill, one of two in operation for the business, at a cost of $18,000, said owner Keith Patterson. He said savings typically run $500-$600 per month. However, he said the unit has advantages for his sawmill beyond the reduction of kilowatt usage.
“They have other benefits, such as by reducing energy, you reduce the wear on your motors,” he said.
Familiarity of The Powerhouse isn’t widespread among some area utility companies, as Tom Houston, general manager of Marshfield-based Webster Electric Cooperative, said he had never heard of the product.
Dave Ramsey, manager of Member Energy Services with Associated Electric Cooperative Inc., said in an email he met with representatives of C3 in 2016. However, he said some questions about The Powerhouse went unanswered, declining to elaborate. He added the co-op hasn’t had any further discussions with the company since then. Therefore, he felt unable to offer an opinion on the product.
Despite neither having an opinion on The Powerhouse, both Ramsey and Houston said the co-ops offer its members programs to save money through other avenues, by offering incentives to purchase proven, energy-efficient technologies. The list of programs started in 2008, Ramsey said, including Energy Star-rated heat pumps, high efficiency water heaters, residential energy audits and any subsequent weatherization improvements identified and made through the audits.
“Collectively with our member cooperatives, we have spent nearly $60 million to directly help our member-owners save 1.8 billion kilowatt-hours,” Ramsey said via email. “These numbers are through the end of 2017 and the program measure is ongoing.”
Houston said via email most electric companies offer some sort of energy efficiency programs to help people reduce their usage.
“I cannot think of very many other industries that encourage their members or consumers to use less of their product,” he said.
Childers said energy-saving products such as The Powerhouse and LEDs are a big hit financially to utility companies, as equipment being used today is more efficient, with consumers and businesses the beneficiaries.
“I have companies tell me that they’ve put in LEDs, and it’s saving them tens of thousands of dollars,” he said. “But that is tens of thousands of dollars out of the utilities’ pocket.”
Childers said the growth of a product like The Powerhouse is another indicator of the desire for consumers – and the business community, in particular – to see if they can reduce energy usage.
“This is something that can really make a difference for businesses,” he said.
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