Nextronex announces financing for new solar inverterWritten by Duane Ramsey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Nextronex Energy Systems (NES) has secured $1 million in local investments to finance the production of the company’s new solar inverter manufacturing program in Northwest Ohio.
The company announced the Series A round of financing Nov. 24 with $250,000 investments from Rocket Ventures of the Regional Growth Partnership (RGP) and UT Innovative Enterprise (UTIE) and additional amounts from local angel investment groups.
Additional financing is available from both Rocket Ventures and UTIE if the company meets milestones specified in the agreements.
“Nextronex has developed the most efficient and cost effective solar inverter in the world that will reduce the production costs of generating electricity from solar power,” said Norm Johnston, chairman of the board for Nextronex and director of Ohio Advanced Energy.
Nextronex introduced the first solar inverter unit at its manufacturing facility located at Metcalf Field in Millbury where additional units will be produced in early 2010. The company expects to have as many as 100 people working on production, said Jim Olzak, a co-founder of the company with Johnston and director of manufacturing.
The first three units will be installed at the solar field at the Ohio Air National Guard base, Olzak said.
Johnston said the Nextronex inverter is the first new inverter on the market in Ohio and the final piece of equipment to have a complete solar installation made in Ohio.
“We want to go from being the Rust Belt to be the renewable energy center,” Johnston said.
The first unit will be sent to Underwriters Laboratories in New York for certification before they begin production, according to Peter Gerhardinger, chief technology officer of NES. The distributed design of the low-profile cabinet and wiring system will reduce installation costs, harvest more energy under low light levels and run only as needed with multiple units operated by one master control, said Gerhardinger.
“Each unit only runs the equivalent of seven and a half years over 20 years for longer life. If one unit goes down, you can bypass it and never miss a beat,” he said.
The Nextronex inverter system takes DC current from solar panels, inputs it into the core inverter assembly to create commercial quality AC current for electric power grids. The unique design includes an advanced heat extractor that uses natural air to cool it and reduces wiring costs for solar installations by 15 to 17 percent, Gerhardinger said.
One Nextronex inverter will produce 150 kilowatts, so seven units would be required for a megawatt solar field similar to those at the Air National Guard and UT’s Scott Park Campus.
“It looks like we’re going to achieve it with the financial support of RGP, Rocket Ventures, UTIE and other investors. We intend to exceed all expectations,” said Nextronex CEO Norm Rapino.
UTIE is a separate corporation established by UT President Dr. Lloyd Jacobs to support economic development in Northwest Ohio. Jacobs awarded $10 million from various business income sources at UT to the fund which has created an analysis and investment process reviewed by its board, according to Daniel Kory, associate vice president for technology transfer at UT.
“The fund was established to finance businesses with business or research connections at UT and create a strong region for complete photovoltaic development. Its support provides credibility for Nextronex with other investors,” he said.
Kory reported that Nextronex will use $100,000 of its investment to establish production of the inverter units and have the balance of $150,000 available for future needs.
It was the second financial grant to Nextronex from Rocket Ventures, according to Greg Knudson, director of Rocket Ventures and vice president of technology at RGP.
“It legitimizes the entire Nextronex operation for the angel investors,” he said.
The Nextronex project received bipartisan support from Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo) and Rep. Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green) who attended the announcement at Nextronex.
“It’s great to be able to build a fully operational solar installation with products made in this region and Ohio,” Kaptur said.
She cited the importance of cooperation among the business community, such as RGP and Rocket Ventures with UT and BGSU to have stronger partnerships to support these kinds of developments.
“We’ve been a leader in alternative energy with cutting edge technology and educated work force here in Northwest Ohio,” Latta said. “The federal government needs to recognize this area for funding thousands of potential jobs in the future here.”
Latta said he saw solar panels made in Northwest Ohio operating in Germany and wants it to happen here to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign energy.
“We’re a region that is moving forward with solar companies in Lucas and Wood County and understand the importance of solar energy for domestic use and exporting to other countries,” Kaptur said.