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Energy Innovators: Ringing in an Age of Enlightenment

Fortnightly Magazine - December 1999

very nicely with what we're trying to do.

Much of Green Mountain's success seems to be tied to innovative marketing.

Yes, we are approaching the marketing of electricity with the discipline that I learned at Coca-Cola, that all of our professional marketers have. Marketing is a science, and it should be approached and thought of that way. ¼

What's in store for you and Green Mountain in 2000?

For 2000 we have aggressive growth plans. We feel like we've just scratched the surface in the states we're in, which are California and Pennsylvania. We are very anxious to get into New Jersey and move forward in that state. We're working out some details of that right now. We see some other opportunities in the Northeast, which we're finalizing as part of our business planning process at this moment.

As for me personally, I really think the credit goes to the people. My job is to help people do their best work, and the thing I try to do is remove any roadblocks that are in their way. So if there's any credit to be given for innovation, [it should go to] our people, our agencies, and all I do is try to take obstacles out of their way and give them the freedom they need to do their jobs.

Alan Guggenheim - Bringing Technology Home

This entrepreneur and his two partners have the technology to get fuel cells off the drawing board and into your basement.

Northwest Power Systems is a small company now, but driven by the big vision of its president, Alan Guggenheim, it won't be for long.

Guggenheim was thinking big in 1996, when, as the leader of a business operating from a founder's garage, he approached Bonneville Power Administration with an invention and a request for funding. But it was his business experience and vision to communicate the potential of that technology that won NPS its $250,000 grant.

Two years later, NPS delivered a major breakthrough in small-scale distributed generation. The prototype fuel cell delivered to BPA included NPS's revolutionary fuel processor, which reforms methanol into pure hydrogen for use in proton exchange membrane fuel cell systems.

Since then, BPA's public utility customers have demonstrated the 5-kilowatt system throughout the Pacific Northwest. BPA has entered into a second purchase order, this time for 110 units, to be demonstrated by its customers during the next three years.

With hindsight, BPA now sees how serendipitous was Guggenheim's original proposal to work with the power marketer. According to Terry Esvelt, vice president of BPA's energy efficiency group, "It just so happened that this thing that we didn't really know where it was going to go - nobody was talking about fuel cells back in 1996 - in 1999, boy, it's now a hot topic."

Since first approaching BPA in 1996, Northwest Power Systems has grown from the original three founders - scientist David J. Edlund, Ph.D., chemical engineer William A. Pledger, P.E., and Guggenheim, a business entrepreneur - to a staff of 23 operating from facilities in Bend, Ore.

Always thinking