MONTROSE, Colo. (KKCO) - A Montrose man is using the sun to launch what he believes will be a multi-million dollar business, and in the process, create hundreds of new jobs on the Western Slope.
It all started after businessman Doug Keisewetter had solar panels installed at his home. "I'd been frustrated by the inefficiency and lack of a cost effective solution."
That install sparked a bright idea that eventually became his solar company, Brightleaf. "We do believe that we have a breakthrough technology here,” he says.
Using a technology called concentrated photovoltaics, Keisewetter has spent the last three years and millions of dollars developing a 200 watt “shaped beam” unit.
"Our system takes a third as much space as a traditional system, so in a much smaller space, you can produce equivalent power,” he says.
The secret is the unit’s curved reflectors, which push a very large amount of sunlight directly onto a very small photovoltaic cell, with no gaps and no shadows.
It’s a process Kiesewetter says makes the unit about 30 percent more efficient than a standard flat panel. "We felt that most solar technologies were too complex and therefore too costly and unreliable and so what we were striving for was the simplest way to capture sun power,” he says.
Because the unit is smaller and doesn’t require as many parts as others, it can be made and sold for less. Kiesewetter says the average person will be able to install it themselves, and if they move, it’s easily transportable. "Instead of this just being a rich man's tool, it becomes something that everyone can benefit from,” he says.
Kiesewetter has already built up three businesses currently worth more than $100 million and says at the rate the solar industry is growing, Brightleaf will likely be added to that list.
"We believe that we should be growing to $100 million or more in sales within the next four to five years, that will require about 400 employees in this area,” he says.
Kiesewetter currently has 15 employees, which will soon jump up to 25, once production begins in a few weeks.
As he phases in the remaining 375, he says he plans to do most of his hiring here on the Western Slope. "I'm very convinced if you live here you need to make a contribution to the community, and one of the contributions that's needed here is better employment base,” he says.
The first Brightleaf units are expected to hit shelves this fall.