Brian Wildes of Ecolibrium Solar
Meet Brian Wildes, founder of Ecolibrium Solar
, a designer of cost effective and ecologically sound products that minimize costs, making it easier to implement clean energy technology.
What is Ecolibrium Solar?
We produce mounting systems for commercial solar electric arrays, called the Ecofoot. Photovoltaic (PV) installers purchase our equipment and sell a turnkey system to the end user. Our systems are extremely simple, quick to install and low cost. This technology helps our industry take the next step towards grid parity, which is the day when solar is more economical than brown energy.
How did you come up with the idea?
I worked in the solar industry and wasn't happy with available products. Traditional mounting systems are erector sets consisting of many high cost metallic parts that take significant time to install with a high price tag. Our systems only have a few parts that can be quickly installed. Additionally, the Ecofoot is composed of polymers, so it’s non-corrosive, lightweight, won't tear the roof membrane and low cost. My previous experience in plastic part design meshed well with my latest experience in solar to create the Ecofoot.
What was the biggest surprise in starting your business?
How long it takes to launch!
Where did you find your first employee?
An investor referred us to a talented individual who was local and available. He wore many hats at the beginning and is now Director of Business Development.
What does a typical day in your business look like?
I spend half my day reacting to emails and requests, one quarter in meetings, and if I'm lucky, one quarter on my projects, which are primarily research and development.
What are some of the advantages to doing business in Ohio?
Ohio has a tremendous manufacturing capacity that we draw upon. It's great that we can have such a great company in a small town we love.
What resources or organizations in Ohio did you take advantage of and how did they help?
The support has been overwhelming. Tech Growth
provided initial small grants to prove the concept, and Tech Growth joined ECOTAF
(East Central Ohio Tech Angel Fund) to provide our first round of funding. Also, the Athens Community Improvement Corporation provided a loan for our first production tool.
Can you share a funny or amazing entrepreneurial experience with our readers?
One of our investors went to great lengths to get us off the ground by buying a large 20kW PV system for his commercial building. This provides a pilot project for the Ecofoot and made it possible to build a case study for our launch at a national tradeshow. He even went to the show in Texas to sell for us!
What inspires you?
The belief that solar will displace nonrenewable energy.
What founders do you admire and why?
Those that work smarter, not harder, and make it home for supper. There must be one somewhere.
What’s next for you?
We currently have a partner in the UK and Australia and are building more relationships that will help us expand internationally. We believe Europe and Japan are strong markets to enter. Also, we are developing a residential mounting system to complement our product line.
Interview by Joe Baur