Peppermint Energy’s Forty2 aims to make power portable, renewable
The Peppermint Energy team of (from left) Brian Gramm, Tom Brzica, Daren Davoux and Chris Maxwell saw the Kickstarter campaign for its product, the Forty2, hit its goal in just five days.
With challenges like political policy, scalability, cost and portability, the barriers begin to stack up for any entrepreneur looking to make an impact in renewable energy. But one Sioux Falls company thinks it has the right product to make such an impact. That company is Peppermint Energy, which aims to provide energy for for all by making power personal and renewable.
That Peppermint team consists of CEO Brian Gramm, COO Chris Maxwell, director of engineering Daren Davoux and director of operations Tom Brzica. This is Gramm and Maxwell's second venture together following the 2010 sale of their last company, Milo Belle, a governance, risk, and compliance consulting firm.
Gramm said the concept for Peppermint came from a countryside drive in late 2010 through southwest Minnesota, which is littered with giant wind turbines. He noticed many of the turbines were not moving. This struck him as odd, and he soon learned that the cost to fix one of the turbines is $100,000. "For the cost of $100,000, you should be able to make a bunch of something that if it breaks, you throw it away," Gramm said.
Big solar currently faces a lot of challenges, but Gramm believes those are largely self-inflicted. "The industry got the scale wrong," he said. "They tried to take solar and make it into a coal plant. What the industry is attempting to do in all renewable energy right now is replicate a coal plant. But you can't move it around."
This problem became the impetus Peppermint, which was established with portability in mind. "You can move wind if it's small; you can move solar if it's small," Gramm said. "So that was the concept: take renewable energy and shrink it so that it goes on to a scale that actually utilizes the technology."
Peppermint Energy's first product is the Forty2, a portable unit that looks like a suitcase and utilizes photovoltaic technology (left) to power everyday devices. The Forty2 utilizes the sun's energy, but it also has an internal battery that charges by day and then can be used at night when the sun has set. The Peppermint team decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign to help gain early adopters and build grassroots support. The campaign exceeded its $25,000 goal in just five days and now sits at slighly above $74,000 with four days left.
As the Kickstarter video states, there are over three billion people today that need reliable, simple and portable power to do things many people take for granted. By providing that power, the Peppermint team hopes to change lives. "We realized, this could make half the planet's lives better, literally overnight, once you get it in their hands," Gramm said.
Gramm and Maxwell say the Forty2 is a pretty good product, but it's not what the final version will someday look like. In fact, they say Kickstarter users are already suggesting new ways to utilize the Forty2.
In the end, Maxwell said, what makes the Forty2 unique is its portability. "Currently, today, to get the technology you have to be connected to the grid," he said. "To make it portable, to make it personable, and the ability to take it wherever you go ... is huge."
The Forty2's Kickstarter video, produced by Sioux Falls ad agency Fresh Produce, is embedded below.
Credits: Photos by John Meyer. Video by Fresh Produce.