Helping consumers control energy usage in their homes

April 18, 2010
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In 2007, Cascade Engineering’s renewable energy group, Cascade Renewable Energy, got its start by bringing the Swift Wind Turbine, its first product, to market. A partnership with the original designers, UK-based Renewable Devices, allowed Cascade to manufacture and market the turbine for North America. The building-mountable turbine is designed for the residential market.

This year, Cascade Renewable Energy has moved deeper into the residential market with the Energy Center, a pilot program of Lowe’s Home Improvement. The Energy Centers are kiosks with touch-screen displays that offer consumers a chance to save on energy costs by presenting energy usage information and associated products. They currently are offered in 21 Lowe’s stores in California and a few in North Carolina.

“About mid-year last year, we received a call from Lowe’s after they had seen some publicity about the Swift wind turbine. They were interested in raising the awareness of renewable energy — in particular small wind — as a pilot in a retail environment,” said Michael Ford, business unit manager for Cascade Renewable Energy and president of Choose Renewables, a sister company of Cascade Engineering.

“They had a real innovative approach to use their assets as a trusted brand in the home improvement space, and how they could capture that brand value in the new category we’re calling the Energy Center.”

The Energy Center offers customers several ways to save money and energy. “The first one is measurement,” said Ford. “The first step in managing your energy more wisely and efficiently is to understand how much energy you’re using in your daily lifestyle.”

In this category, Choose Renewables has a kilowatt measurement tool. The tool allows users to plug in their address and find out if they are a better candidate for solar or wind energy.

“The second key theme is ‘Reduce,’ so there is a whole assortment of products focused on energy efficiency,” he said. “The third theme is ‘Generate.’ That is broken down into two different areas: power on the go, which includes a variety of remote power applications. The final theme, where Swift resides, is power for your home. That’s where we’ve got all of the marketing and literature around the Swift Wind Turbine.”

Ford said that there are many simple and affordable ways to decrease a home’s energy usage, but that most consumers don’t take the initial steps toward finding the information.

“One of the big misses in our community is that people don’t feel, in general, empowered to take control of their energy behavior,” he said. “We feel that Lowe’s has a great voice and a great platform to help raise awareness, so that customers feel like they really can take control of their energy use.”

Whether or not the pilot will be a success is still unknown, but Ford believes it is a move in the right direction.

“We’re very excited about the whole concept that Lowe’s is piloting. We’re big believers and big advocates of using the brand awareness and trust that Lowe’s has built with millions and millions of people in North America to help further the message about energy efficiency on a very broad level,” said Ford.

“I think none of us know all the ins and outs from a dollar or pure sales standpoint of how well the pilot will do, but I think there’s a strong conviction amongst all of us that we’re driven to use this as a platform to help consumers take better control of their energy usage.”

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