Sacred Power debuts in Home Depot

 

 

Albuquerque-based Sacred Power Corp. has begun selling its patented solar systems in Home Depot stores in New Mexico, and will soon roll them out nationwide.

The company, which manufacturers fully integrated solar systems with battery backup for remote locations, has carved out a $7.5 million niche market since forming in 2001 by selling its solar products to military installations and other government agencies.

But the company struck an agreement this year with Home Depot, marking its first foray into retail markets.

“We’re transitioning from mostly government contracts into retail for the first time,” said Chief Operating Officer Odes Armijo-Caster. “We have a contract with Home Depot to make our solar systems available through more than 2,000 stores nationwide. We’ll work to slowly but surely capture that market, starting with New Mexico and southern Colorado.”

So far, the company has installed floor demonstration models and information booths at nine locations in New Mexico, including four in Albuquerque, and at one store in Durango, Colo. In the next few weeks, it will begin deploying at stores in Arizona, California and Nevada.

“We’ll begin by focusing on the West, and then later move east of the Mississippi,” Armijo-Caster said.

New business model

The deal with Home Depot represents a huge departure from the company’s traditional business model, but one that its founders envisioned from the start.

“It’s always been our goal to eventually bring our solar system to the general population,” said President and CEO David Melton.

Melton and Armijo-Caster are co-owners of Sacred Power, although Melton controls a 51 percent stake and Armijo-Caster 49 percent. That makes it a Native American-owned business, since Melton is a member of Laguna Pueblo, allowing Sacred Power to bid as a minority-majority company for contracts under the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) program for small, disadvantaged firms.

The partners have created a proprietary, patented hybrid solar system for use in rugged or isolated areas where electricity is generally unavailable. They also designed a solar carport installation that generates power for electric vehicles and for buildings, while providing shade for parked cars and trucks.

Government contracts

From the start, the company focused on government contracts to deploy its system in remote locations. A multi-year contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, for example, has financed installation of about 750 units at homes throughout the Navajo Nation.

Sacred Power also has deployed the system on mountaintops to power communications networks for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and it’s installed units at many locations in the Caribbean and South Pacific for the U.S. Geological Survey.

But its biggest contracts have come from the U.S. military. Its integrated power systems now operate on military bases around the U.S., including nearly two dozen solar carports at Fort Bliss in El Paso.

In fact, last fall, the company won a $4 million contract with the Navy to install solar carports at nine facilities. That’s part of a Navy goal to derive at least 50 percent of energy it uses onshore from renewable sources, said Bill Couch, spokesman for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Midwest. The first carport fueling station began operating in March at a naval facility in Millington, Tenn.

Rapid revenue growth

Such military contracts have helped Sacred Power rapidly grow its operations. Revenue reached $3.2 million by 2008, and more than $7 million by 2010, where it has remained for the past three years. It now operates at a 47,000-square-foot facility in the Sawmill industrial Hub Zone at 12th Street and Interstate 40, up from an 8,000-square-foot building it previously occupied.

The company expects a lot more growth as it moves into sales through Home Depot, which bills itself as the world’s largest home-improvement specialty retailer with $75 billion in revenue in 2012.

“The exposure Home Depot is giving Sacred Power is tremendous,” said the company’s marketing director, John Paulson.

Sacred Power developed a line of retail products in preparation for Home Depot. They include the fully integrated solar system for remote sites and the solar carport, plus a backup power-supply pack for remote places, a grid-tied solar system kit for easy assembly and installation on rooftops, and a portable solar system for individuals, or for construction sites and other outdoor work places.

Redesigned for retail

“We’ve redesigned our hybrid PV system to offer more retail uses,” Melton said. “With the trailer-mounted mobile system, vacationers can take their own power with them on camping trips.”

The systems will not be available for purchase in stores. Rather, they will be sold as special-order products that people learn about through the floor demos and through the retailer’s website, Paulson said.

But the products will be available with Home Depot’s traditional financing mechanisms. That’s critical, because Sacred Power products are big-ticket items.

The fully integrated system for remote places, for example, starts at $13,000. The mobile system starts at $9,999, and the grid-tied solar system kit costs $2,400 per kilowatt of capacity.

But with financing, the products can provide a good alternative for people in remote areas, Paulson said.

“Many people in the Four Corners still don’t have power, so this is a solution that can be financed through Home Depot,” he said. “Instead of paying $13,000 upfront for a system, a customer could pay $250 a month. It makes it more affordable.”

Armijo-Caster said he expects the systems to fall substantially in price as lithium ion battery technology becomes more adaptable to these types of technology. The systems currently use flooded lead acid batteries, which are more expensive and require maintenance.

“Our vision is to eventually see these types of fully integrated solar systems do for the electric industry what cellphones have done for the phone industry,” Armijo-Caster said. “As prices come down over time, people won’t have to be tied to a utility at all.”

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