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Entrepreneurs

2015 CEA Winner In Manufacturing & Distribution: Koolbridge Solar

By Neil Cotiaux, posted May 8, 2015
J. Stephen Burnett, co-founder/chairman/CEO | Year Founded: 2013 | No. of Employees: 1 (Photo by Chris Brehmer)
Declining costs, increasing efficiencies and the environmental awareness of millennials have prompted Koolbridge Solar Inc. to make hay while the sun shines.

These and other favorable trends have Wrightsville Beach-based Koolbridge anxious to bring its patented Smart Load Center technology to market by July 2016.

Founded two years ago, Koolbridge Solar was built around the ideas of Paul Dent, the former chief scientist at Ericsson Mobile and the father of Bluetooth wireless technology.

When a severe storm rumbled through the Piedmont and knocked out his power, Dent began exploring ways to have solar power and utility power interact more reliably and cheaply.

The result was the Smart Load Center, a solar and utility energy breaker box that automatically selects the particular power source for each individual load circuit using a microcontroller.

“The Smart Load Center is intelligent,” explained CEO Stephen Burnett, who previously co-founded Remote Light, an intellectual property holding company. “It has the capability of knowing when the least expensive power is available.”

On sunny days or if utility power goes out, the system converts to solar; on cloudy ones, it switches to the grid. By maintaining sufficient battery charge, it ensures that power is available at night and also during outages with the exception of big-load uses like HVAC.

The technology is programmed to shed or add load, turns on appliances when energy costs are at their lowest and can also prioritize critical uses such as a baby monitor.

The company expects to strike alliances with solar installers and homebuilders as it refines multiple prototypes before bringing the Smart Load Center to market.

While the company is focused on the residential market in its early years, the sky may be the limit for its brand of solar-meets-grid technology.

The price of installed solar in the U.S. declined by 49 percent from 2010 to 2014, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the result of a glut of panels produced in China, faster installations, new leasing models, tax credits and other factors.

Domestically, the addressable residential market for the Smart Load Center totals $648 million in annual revenue, estimates Bill Griffin, a partner at Cornerstone Business Advisors who also serves as the interim president and COO of Koolbridge. Griffin calls the Smart Load Center the “heart, soul and brains” of residential energy management.

Burnett believes businesses will also warm up to the company’s innovations once they get a glimpse of the cost benefits. “I see this as a big benefit for the shareholders of publicly traded companies,” he said.

Koolbridge raised $500,000 in its first funding round, has another quarter-million committed and is pursuing various grants. All consultants are being paid in stock, and Dent will receive royalties.
 
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