A few years ago, Travis Semmes worked for a company building houses in remote locations on the coast of central California. The crews had to use fuel generators to power their tools. “It's a huge hassle,” he says. “You're asking a carpenter to act as a mechanic and change the oil and filters. Most contractors do not maintain these units, and just put them in a Dumpster after they break down because it's cheaper than dealing with maintenance.”
After seeing prototypes of solar generators, Semmes decided to try making one for use on the remote sites. After inspectors and subcontractors commented on the usefulness of Semmes' product, which offers fuel savings, minimal maintenance, and operates quietly, he formed Mobile Solar Power to manufacture the units. “A quiet generator is also great for safety because guys on the jobsite can hear one another,” Semmes says.
The units work in areas that do not have a lot of sun. Semmes points out that cloudy days have a cool ambient temperature, which makes the collection panels very efficient. “One hour here and there of high-quality sunlight hours can add up,” he says. This is enough energy to run construction tools that have large draws, for short periods of time. The solar generators can also be charged by a fuel generator.
Semmes' jobsite solar power generators cost $20,000 to $30,000. “It's sticker shock,” he says, “but you would spend $3,000 on a fuel generator that will last two years and require maintenance. If you do the math in long-term investment and increasing fuel costs, [solar] makes sense.”
He sells the units nationwide, and the Mobile Solar Power Web site (www.mobilesolarpower.net) has a page that explains how to choose a unit based on load calculations.