Power Supply

These fierce young leaders demonstrate why energy is today's hot sector

Gilbert G. Campbell III and Simon Antonio Francis
Gilbert G. Campbell III and Simon Antonio Francis are seeking entrepreneurial success by harnessing the power of the elements. Volt Energy, the green power company they launched in 2009, installs solar photovoltaics, solar thermal, and wind systems for governments, businesses, school systems, nonprofits, and utilities in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

Earlier this year, the Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based company completed its first commercial solar energy installation. Located in downtown Winston-Salem, the 10-kilowatt solar panel-powered system is part of a statewide initiative to encourage use of clean, alternative energy sources. The company’s rooftop system captures heat and converts it into electricity. Volt has turned that power into profit by selling it back to the utility Duke Energy for 8 cents per kilowatt-hour over a 15-year agreement, while their renewable energy certificates are sold for 15 cents per kilowatt-hour to North Carolina Green Power.

So Campbell, 30, and Francis, 31, have found a way to generate revenues not only from selling solar power but trading energy as well. “We primarily do solar installation, providing turnkey solutions for commercial and government clients,” says Campbell. Volt generated solid profits in 2009 and is projected to top $1 million in revenues for 2010.

For emerging green power companies, the cost of entry can prove to be a huge barrier. The longtime friends and Howard University alums have been able to take advantage of federal and state tax credits and to gain resources through their network, including valuable contacts at North Carolina A&T State University’s Center for Energy Research and Technology and the American Council on Renewable Energy. A recent capital source came from a $300,000 grant Volt received from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor and Industry to provide green job training.

Several projects are under way and in development, including designing a system that operates without an electrical grid to power laptops, cell phones, and other communication devices.

The duo’s other plans call for global expansion, particularly in South Africa where there is a huge demand for renewable energy.  Says Francis: “There are 7 billion people in the world today and there are roughly 1.5 billion people without electricity.

This is one of the industries where there are no boundaries for minority business owners.”

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