In August, Twende Solar volunteers traveled to an isolated area of Guatemala to install 6.6kW worth of Itek Energy solar PV panels on the Maya Jaguar School. This off-grid installation brought a stable source of electricity to a remote, mountain-top community, ensuring the Maya youth have access to educational offerings that will allow them to realize their fullest potential. We recently spoke with Dana Hickenbottom and Jesse Wear of Itek Energy to discuss the future of Itek Energy and the importance of global electrification.
What makes Itek different from other PV module manufacturers?
Being a smaller, local manufacturer we find ourselves in a unique position within the solar market. We have grown to a size where we can offer a cost competitive, high quality, domestically manufactured solar modules and have expanded our markets outside of Washington and Minnesota. However, even with this growth we are still small enough that we can remain nimble in this dynamic industry and respond to market needs more rapidly than our larger competitors. This advantage along with our emphasis on superior customer support and community outreach make us a unique module manufacturer.
What inspires you to work within the renewable energy industry?
As I sit here answering this question I’m looking at my two year daughter and thinking about the type of world that I want her to live in. There is no denying that the clean energy revolution is in full swing and I’m proud to be part of this movement. I want my daughter to grow up in a world where we no longer wage wars for finite resources but effectively harness the abundant renewable energy sources available to us, like geothermal, wind, and of course solar! I would love for solar to become as ubiquitous as the power lines crisscrossing our neighborhoods. I personally feel that solar PV is the most elegant and empowering renewable energy technology and I love that I get to help people and businesses access this incredible technology around the world.
What inspires Itek Energy to support international or charitable projects such as Twende's Guatemala project?
For most of us here in the United States we take our access to energy for granted. We flip on a light switch or plug in a device and expect there to be a flow of energy. Not everyone around the world is so fortunate and energy poverty is a serious global issue. By supporting projects like the Maja Jaguar School in Guatemala we are helping to spread energy access and the empowerment (pun intended) that comes with it. By utilizing Itek Energy solar modules these students will have opportunities not available to previous generations. There is still a lot to be done around the world to fight energy poverty but efforts like those at Twende Solar are a perfect example of the right path forward.
How many charitable projects does Itek Energy support annually?
Itek Energy tries to identify at least 2-3 charitable projects to support per year. We have traditionally been focused on local charitable projects like donating modules and inverters to the Bellingham Food Bank and Lydia Place, a shelter for homeless women and their children. However, when we were approached by Twende Solar about their Maya Jaguar School project in Guatemala we saw it as an opportunity to broaden our reach. I personally love the approach that Twende takes to these projects by actually educating the local population on how this technology works and how to maintain it so that there is a feeling of ownership from the recipients. This helps to ensure that the system will continue to operate and serve whatever purpose it was designed for.
What's in the future for Itek energy?
We’re going to continue to do what we do best, build high efficiency superior quality solar products right here in the Pacific Northwest. We just closed a deal on a new building at the Bellingham Waterfront Redevelopment district and will be bringing a new production line online that will triple our production capacity as well as bring 35 new family wage jobs to Whatcom County. This new facility will help usher in an exciting period of growth for Itek Energy as we expand into other markets in North America and abroad. We will continue to explore new technologies and designs with our product line in order to be on the cutting edge of the module manufacturing industry.
Just this week we finished the expansion of a solar array on our facility. We added 62kW of new modules to our existing 15.3kW system on our manufacturing facility. The 77.3kW system is expected to offset approximately 10% of our energy usage. We are very proud to be building solar with solar!
We are also becoming more involved in STEM education within our community. This fall the first cohort of students were enrolled in a 2-year Clean Energy program at Bellingham Technical College, which we helped to design. We’re also doing community outreach with K-12 students to bring solar technology, education, and mentoring into the classroom in an effort to help create the next generation of clean energy professionals.
Twende Solar is proud to partner Itek Energy on its global electrification initiatives.
Watch the full recap of the Guatemala installation online, here.