Sedona Energy Labs wants to go back to the basics: reliable solar technology, the sun, and family. Formed in December 2009 by Mark Scanlon who was later joined by son-in-law Michael Marquess and step-son Scott Moore, the company is now testing two dual-axis solar technology products, the HelioFrame and the HelioPort.
“Sedona Energy Labs is looking for practical solutions. We’re taking existing technologies and combining them so we can get the costs down and get it out to the consumer,” said Marquess, who is the operations manager. “We want to knock out the barriers to people having solar.”
Scanlon worked in the solar industry during the 1970s and 1980s and remained passionate about the possibilities of harnessing the sun’s power. He started working with some models while setting up solar panels at his private residence. “Mark did the initial tinkering and invent- ing,” said Marquess, “He needed someone for the business end to make contacts and make the business operational. That’s my position in the company.”
Moore rounds out the company as the construction and design manager. Sedona Energy Labs is named for Scanlon’s long-time residence in Sedona and the ongoing “lab” research for new products.
Their two products, the HelioFrame and the HelioPort, use dual-axis solar tracking technology to gather the maximum energy from the sun. The HelioFrame is an array of eight 60-pound, 290-watt solar panels. These arrays, or modules, can be used alone or can be linked together. “We are looking at something that is geared more towards small residential or small commercial applications,” said Marquess. “Go to a Bashas or a Walmart with a normal flat sort of roof and we can mount our frames up there and get great solar performance.” The HelioPort is designed like a carport, but with the solar panel array as the roof. Electric cars would be able to plug into a port and recharge their batteries.
Dual-axis solar trackers follow the sun not only as it moves across the sky during the day, but also tracks the sun during its seasonal progression. As a result, the solar panels are able to take in up to 40 percent more of the sun’s energy and convert it to energy for use in homes and businesses. Renewable Energy World International Magazine anticipates that the use of solar tracking will become far more prevalent as reliability increases and costs go down. Sedona Energy Labs uses a relatively inexpensive dual-axis sun sensor to track the sun. This palm-sized sensor uses LED technology to monitor the sun’s movement across the sky. As the sun moves and hits different points on the sensor, it “instructs” the solar panels to move. “Here is the sundial of the 21st century,” said Marquess, holding the sensor. “This was one of the stumbling blocks for dual-axis tracking. It was very expensive and now they have come down to several hundred dollars, which makes it reasonable and practical to do it.”
Currently, Sedona Energy Labs has an office at NACET, Northern Arizona Center for Emerging Technologies. “We take advantage of all of the fabulous mentorship opportunities,” said Marquess. “Everything from engineering to ac- counting and our new logo… Everything a new business needs to make sure we succeed as best as possible.”
They currently have a three-year contract with NACET. “Sedona Energy Labs has spent extensive time researching and developing their technology and appears to have validated their idea,” said Russ Yelton, president and CEO of NACET, in an email. “We hope they will soon be manufacturing their products in Flagstaff.”
In June, Sedona Energy Labs will find out if they have received a grant from the “21st Century Energy Demonstration Projects Grant Program.” This grant is administered through Arizona’s Department of Commerce and was funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. If awarded this grant, the company will be able to showcase its product at local schools and businesses.
Right now, the company is manufacturing its product unit by unit, with hopes to increase marketing across the southwest United States. They have just installed their first HelioFrame on a residence in Sedona.
“Low cost and reliable [dual-axis solar] track- ing will become huge asset to the industry,” said Ryan Holtz, president of Prometheus Renewables, who helped with the installation. “I think that [Sedona Energy Labs] is laying the groundwork for making this possible.” FBN