Young Sudbury entrepreneur Brad Wright has tied a green lining around the cloud of layoffs at Vale Inco, transforming his focus from mining to renewable energy through 3e Solutions, his new company.
Rather than poring over mining data, Wright now spends his days helping homeowners and businesses save money through the installation of solar panels and solar thermal systems to heat air and water.
"There's a misconception with renewable energy that helping the environment costs money and is bad for the economy, but really, they go hand in hand," says Wright. "They're intertwined, and there'll definitely be a shift over the next couple of years of people wanting to lessen their impact on the environment. A lot of people will want to do it for the environment, but a lot more people will do it for the money."
As part of Vale Inco's mining projects development group, Wright helped design feasibility studies for projects at Garson and Creighton mines.
However, the 23-year-old saw the writing on the wall in February 2009, after men with a decade or more of experience were asked to pack their things. He knew he had to make a choice.
"I personally didn't want to work for anyone else again. I'd rather have control over that sense of whether someone five levels up would decide if you have a paycheque or not."
After endless discussions about their shared passion for environmental technologies, Wright and his boss, professional mine engineer Gary Poxleitner, created not only a friendship, but also a partnership.
The two began to lay the foundations for 3e Solutions, seeking out manufacturers and interesting products. By the time Wright was laid off in May, the business was well underway.
After attending solar technology courses in Buffalo and signing up for the Energy Systems Technology program at Cambrian, Wright now works with Poxleitner -- who still works for Vale -- to oversee a flurry of site assessments and completed projects.
Some of the company's clients already include Canun International, a pneumatic rock drill manufacturer in the Val Caron industrial park, as well as homeowners and cottagers throughout Sudbury and the Manitoulin Island.
One of the more popular products driving this interest is the seven-foot-high, four-foot wide Cansolair solar heating unit. This Newfoundland invention features a 31-watt motor that draws air into a series of 240-recycled aluminum cans coated in black paint; the sun heats the air in the cans, which is then pumped into the house.
Poxleitner installed the first of its kind in Sudbury on his own home in early August, and several installations have since followed.
Other items of interest include EnerWorks solar hot water systems, which pre-heats water before it is put into the home's hot water tank, reducing costs by 40 to 50 per cent.
Installed systems range typically from $7,000 and $12,000, though a $2,500 rebate for such systems is available from the provincial and federal governments.
This level of government support has had good timing for 3e Solutions, with efforts such as the Green Energy Act providing financial incentives for homeowners and businesses alike to consider their services.