2021 TAEBC Annual Meeting emphasizes value of partnerships, the Energy Mentor Network and transportation electrification efforts in Tennessee

TAEBC awarded the 2021 Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award to TNECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe

On March 25, the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC) hosted its virtual 2021 Annual Meeting, sponsored by Seven States Power Corporation. The event featured speakers from the Department of Energy, state agencies and the graduates of the Energy Mentor Network. TAEBC also awarded the 2021 Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award to Bob Rolfe, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD).

TAEBC Executive Director Cortney Piper kicked off the event’s festivities by providing an overview of the TAEBC’s accomplishments in 2020 and gave a glimpse at priorities for the organization moving forward into 2021.

“As our nation moves forward and accelerates on its vision for a clean energy economy, we believe that the state of Tennessee has the assets and the businesses to help inform that agenda,” said Piper.

Featured speaker: DOE’s Vanessa Z. Chan

Featured speaker Vanessa Z. Chan, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Chief Commercialization Officer & Director of the Office of Technology Transitions, spoke about her background, her office’s vision and specific ways DOE supports energy entrepreneurs. She discussed how Tennessee is the “perfect ecosystem” for technology growth due to the presence of Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and other key stakeholders.

“My lifelong passion has been helping engineers and scientists aim their scientific prowess at real-world problems that they can transform,” said Chan. “If we combine the strength of a national lab like Oak Ridge with a strong university system and the people represented here by groups like TAEBC, you find yourself in a setting that is right for innovation.”

Chan also recognized the “valley of death” many energy entrepreneurs face in developing their technologies. She emphasized the three-prong approach DOE takes to addressing this challenge: programs, training and awareness-raising.

“Ultimately, driving commercialization and navigating through the valley of death requires public-private partnerships,” she said. “No one organization can drive through it on their own.”

During the audience Q&A, Chan answered questions on a range of topics, including one on how TAEBC can support her department and help the new administration achieve its goals.

“I would love for you guys to be reaching out to us regarding priorities you might have,” she answered.

Featured panel: Energy Mentor Network Spotlight

Next, the 2021 Annual Meeting featured an Energy Mentor Network Spotlight Panel about a recent DOE funding announcement. Earlier this year, DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy awarded $6 million through the Building Technologies Proving Ground – Public Sector Field Validation Funding Opportunity to seven state and local governments for advanced building technologies, including the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC).

TDEC partnered with Stone Mountain Technologies (SMTI), an Energy Mentor Network graduate, to validate SMTI’s gas absorption hot water heat pump technology in a commercial setting. Other partners for the project include TAEBC, the National Association of State Energy Officials, the Gas Technology Institute and ORNL.

During the panel, Michael Garrabrant, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of SMTI, and Ryan Stanton, Senior Consultant for Strategic Energy Initiatives at TDEC, spoke about the importance of Garrabrant’s technology, specifics of the project and the value of the Energy Mentor Network. It was Stanton’s connection to Garrabrant through the Energy Mentor Network that led to their eventual partnership.

“It demonstrates the impact the Energy Mentor Network can have on partnerships like this,” said Stanton. “Stone Mountain has developed this fantastic technology and it was a great opportunity to showcase it at a public building.”

Garrabrant echoed the value of SMTI going through the Energy Mentor Network, saying, “I don’t think it was a coincidence that during that period we were able to raise our first seed round of about $3 million from a strategic investor.”

Award ceremony: 2021 Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award

TAEBC awarded TNECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe with the 2021 Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award. The annual award honors exemplary leadership and success in championing, connecting and strengthening Tennessee’s advanced energy economy.

“Today I’m humbled, I’m honored and most grateful to receive the Tom Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award,” said Rolfe in a pre-recorded statement.

Rolfe was selected for the award due to the instrumental role he’s played in bringing jobs in advanced energy to the state, particularly in electric vehicle manufacturing. Rolfe has spearheaded the goal of making Tennessee the top state in the country for electric vehicle manufacturing, as well as speaking and meeting with automotive manufacturers across the country to attract them here.

“Bob Rolfe has been a tremendous partner to TAEBC and the state’s impressive electric vehicle supply chain,” said Piper. “He is essential to making Tennessee a national leader in EV manufacturing and the advanced energy workforce. We’re excited for continued growth in advanced energy with the leadership from Commissioner Rolfe and all the efforts by TAEBC members and partners across the state.”

In 2019, TAEBC bestowed the first-ever award to Tom Ballard himself, during TAEBC’s Annual Meeting at Schneider Electric’s Nashville Hub. The next year, TAEBC awarded Dan Hurst, CEO and Founder of Knoxville-based Strata-G, with the 2020 Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award during TAEBC’s Annual Meeting.

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Stone Mountain Technologies’ whirlwind year: from kicking off series A funding, exploring European expansion, to preparing for production and commercial launch

The Energy Mentor Network’s second graduate, Stone Mountain Technologies (SMTI), has been busy since its December 2018 graduation. Headquartered in Johnson City, SMTI is a leading developer of cost-effective, next-generation heating technologies that lead to lower energy costs, higher comfort and lower CO2 emissions. 

In the past few months, SMTI has closed its seed-round with nearly $3 million from two strategic investors, kicked off its Series A Round, launched several prototypes and sought market expansion to Europe. Later this month, the company will release details for a new grant that will demonstrate an exciting new feature for the base gas heat pump product.   

“It will provide heating, cooling, and water heating for homes at the lowest carbon footprint that we believe anybody has ever done. It is a huge deal for us to be able to demonstrate that technology over the next year or so,” remarked SMTI President Michael Garrabrant. “The buzz in the industry and the market is the highest it’s ever been and continues to grow as everybody sees that we are getting close to production and commercial launch.”

With product development, SMTI is starting to “seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.” Garrabrant spoke about implementing field test units in Los Angeles on two full-service restaurants, another in Chicago for a multi-unit apartment building, two in Wisconsin for residential spaces and in Montreal for testing at National Resources Canada.

“We may be building 200 more prototypes over the next twelve months, which will finish out product development and get us ready to launch commercial products,” outlined Garrabrant.

“Our focus is on one thing: getting into production and transitioning to a manufacturing company from a product development company,” he continued. “Once we launch, we’ll start out with 50 to 100 employees. But if we hit our targets over the next 10 years, there could be as many as 1,000 or 1,500 employees.”

SMTI is also interested in introducing its technology to the European market. After introducing its technology and company to major European heating and equipment manufacturers at a “dog and pony show” in Paris, SMTI continued the conversations at ISH, the world’s leading trade fair focusing on the responsible management of water and energy in buildings, in Frankfurt, Germany, this past March.

“We’ve got a lot of things going in North America, but we’re trying to get our foot in the door in Europe,” explained Garrabrant. “It’s been pretty successful so far since we graduated.” 

While enrolled in the Energy Mentor Network program, SMTI closed a multi-million dollar investment with a strategic investor and was awarded a $2.7 million U.S. Department of Energy grant in August 2017 to accelerate, with an OEM partner, the commercialization of its residential furnace replacement. SMTI was recently awarded a smaller follow-on grant from the DOE, which kicked off in July.

To learn more about the Energy Mentor Network and its mission to foster advanced energy technologies and startups throughout the state, visit this page.

SoCalGas joins the California Energy Commission in the demonstration of a new ultra-efficient water heater, space cooler developed by SMTI

Restaurants use a lot of energy to not only prepare and cook food, but to cool kitchens, dining rooms, and other spaces. A new high efficiency, ultra-low emissions commercial water heating and space cooling unit, which begins field demonstrations at two Southern California restaurants this week, could dish out energy savings, lower operating costs, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions for foodservice and hospitality facility operators.

The new technology uses a thermally driven heat pump fueled by natural gas or propane to capture ambient energy, achieving a heating efficiency of 140 percent or greater. It is projected to reduce energy use by 30 to 50 percent compared to standard natural gas water heaters. The highly-efficient heat pump also provides space cooling simultaneously, which reduces the need for air conditioning and can help lessen electricity use.

Stone Mountain Technologies, Inc. (SMTI) developed the new heat pump by redesigning heat pump technology traditionally used for cooling and focusing it on heating with cost-effectiveness and scalability in mind. GTI is leading the demonstration, and AO Smith Corporation is also providing support. Project funding was awarded by the California Energy Commission and Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) research and development funds authorized by the California Public Utilities Commission.

Click here for more information.

TAEBC attends, sponsors 2nd annual Innovation & Entrepreneurship Week on the Hill

TAEBC attended and sponsored Launch Tennessee’s 2nd Annual Innovation & Entrepreneurship Week on the Hill in Nashville Feb. 19 to 20. This gathering was hosted by Launch Tennessee and several organizations across the state as an opportunity for entrepreneurs and innovators to speak with legislators and promote innovation in the statewide economy.

Policy makers, legislators, and key stakeholders kicked off Week on the Hill celebrations of entrepreneurship and innovation at a reception the evening of Feb. 19. The next morning, TAEBC and other sponsor organizations spoke to attendees before launching into a day of meetings.

Vice President of TAEBC Cortney Piper and CEO of Stone Mountain Technologies (SMTI) Michael Garrabrant attended and spoke with state legislators and policymakers about TAEBC’s mission and the benefits of advanced energy entrepreneurship and innovation for Tennessee’s economy.

In these meetings, they discussed TAEBC’s 2018 Tennessee Advanced Energy Economic Impact Report to provide further context for decision makers regarding the state’s advanced energy sector. Michael also emphasized the importance of the Energy Mentor Network as its second graduate and SMTI’s cost-effective, advanced heating technologies, along with his commitment to grow his manufacturing company in Northeast Tennessee. SMTI’s products seek to lower energy costs, improve comfort, and reduce CO2 emissions.

Throughout the day, they met with representatives Lt. Governor Randy McNally, Rep. John Holsclaw, Sen. Rusty Crowe, Rep. Rick Staples, Rep. John Ragan, and Sen. Becky Duncan Massey. They also met with Allen Borden, the deputy commissioner of business, community and rural development, and Tony Niknejad, the policy director for Governor Bill Lee.

Garrabrant provides update on SMTI during annual “Opportunities in Energy” forum

(Originally published on Teknovation.biz)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

It’s always good to see progress being made at start-ups that we have followed since launching teknovation.biz in January 2012, and that was the case at last week’s annual “Opportunities in Energy” forum hosted by the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC).

Michael Garrabrant, Chief Executive Officer of Stone Mountain Technologies Inc. (SMTI), told attendees that the 10-year old company now has 16 engineers and technicians on the staff, has produced 30 prototypes, and will have a dozen of its thermal compressors deployed as a key component of gas heat pumps for space, water and pool heating made by the end of the year.

“Everyone likes to come home to a nice warm house and hot shower,” the Johnson City-based Entrepreneur said. SMTI is one of the participants in TAEBC’s “Energy Mentor Network,” a program funded by Launch Tennessee.

Garrabrant says the technology that he has been developing since founding the company in 2008 is relevant for residential and light commercial. The thermal compressors will be manufactured by SMTI but deployed as part of a heat pump or other device produced by an original equipment manufacturer (OEM).

Read more here.