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Small businesses seize opportunities in renewable energy

Small businesses have been making major moves in an industry that is anything but small: renewable energy. In the United States, nearly 800,000 jobs have been created because of renewable energy, and the industry is showing no signs of slowing down. Since 2016, solar energy has been creating jobs at 17 times the rate of the national economy, and a new wind turbine gets installed in the United States every 2.4 hours. Participation in this industry puts a company at the vanguard of the energy sector, allowing them to grow with the demand for “green” energy.

As renewable energy grows, opportunities that small businesses can take advantage of are emerging. The Department of Energy, in a recent press release, extolled the virtues of its new Small Business Vouchers pilot program, meant to facilitate access to the Department of Energy’s labs for American small businesses. This access to intellectual and technical resources is a major boon, allowing them to receive assistance with their business’s technology and other needs specific to renewable energy products. Eight national laboratories received funding to partner with 38 small businesses across the country. Rick Perry, newly minted Energy Secretary, said that “small businesses are the engine of our economy, and those working on advanced energy technologies play an important role in ensuring our nation’s energy security and independence.”

When Robert Wallace founded BithGroup Technologies, a technology company in the urban heart of Baltimore, he dreamed of a business that would contribute to social good. He paired this goal with new experiences gained through ICIC’s Inner City Capital Connections (ICCC) program and eventually founded BithEnergy, an alternative and clean energy company. BithEnergy combines Wallace’s interest in renewable energy with his recognition of the industry’s scarcity in underserved communities. The company, which consults on reducing energy usage and implementing solar and wind power generation, employs residents of and services Baltimore’s inner city community. Since participating in ICCC, BithEnergy has experienced 80% growth in employees, and was named America’s fastest-growing inner city business in 2015. BithEnergy was also ranked 8th out of the top 50 solar developers in 2014 and 49th out of the 400 top solar contractors.

Other ICCC alumni, such as UrbanX Group and Evergreen Energy Solutions, are successfully taking part in the renewable energy renaissance as well. Evergreen Energy Solutions, a subsidiary of Evergreen Cooperative, is the regional leader in LED lighting systems, solar power, and other energy-efficient solutions in the Cleveland area. UrbanX, located in Long Beach, California, creates clean and efficient biodiesel that performs better than traditional diesel and produces less than a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions; because of their success, they were the recipient of a California Energy Commission award.

The growth of these small businesses is a sure sign that consumers are taking renewable energy seriously as an industry, and the attention paid to them shows that they are capable of not only producing great jobs and products, but also larger-scale national and environmental benefits. Already, small businesses like Bithenergy and UrbanX that have combined the demand for renewable energy with transformative business resources such as ICCC have experienced tremendous success in a pioneering industry.

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