Q+A: United Wind
United Wind is a distributer of affordable wind energy, and has successfully financed over 50 projects on farms in upstate New York. An important part of the small wind industry, we sat down with CEO Russell Tencer to discuss his company.
How was United Wind formed?
I founded a company called Wind Analytics previous to United Wind. As the founder of Wind Analytics, our background was in data and finance. We identified a big problem in the market for people who were going to put a small wind turbine on their property, a home or a farm. It was difficult to tell how much the turbine was going to produce. We came up with a software solution that we could tell customers how much a wind turbine would produce in terms of electricity and how much they could save on their energy bills. After several years of selling that data, what I realized was there was an opportunity to use that software to provide wind turbines ourselves to property owners and get banks to finance the cost of the turbines in return for a cash flow stream from the customer. It was designed in a way that the customer could save money on their electricity bills so the lease payment would be below what they are currently paying the utility company. This makes it affordable without any upfront payment to the property owner and makes it easy for the property owner to adopt the technology. Also, banks love it because they receive a twenty year fixed income stream from a credit-worthy borrower.
However, we needed some more expertise when it came to the turbines themselves [such as] their installation and maintenance. So in 2013, I merged our Wind Analytics company with a developer and distributor of small turbines called Talco. At the time, Talco had one of the largest networks of resellers in the United States so we wanted to leverage that network to sell leases to all the customers.
How did you become interested in wind technology and solutions?
Prior to being in Wind Analytics, I had a career in finance and I was focused on investment banking for clean energy companies. So when I started working on wind energy projects, I really got interested in wind energy and that's when I started raising capital for Wind Analytics.
What is the most rewarding part of being the CEO of a wind solution company?
We received a call today from someone who wants a wind lease and basically was a homeowner who uses oil to heat up her house. She keeps her house at 55 degrees because it's too expensive to pay for oil and with wind she would be able to use affordable electricity to power her home and be able to turn the heat up. Getting a call like that, and being able to help her is very satisfying. It's satisfying to know that our product has a really meaningful impact on property owners who need to save that money, and that we can help them make life decision that can improve their lives based on affordable energy. The other thing is that there is an environmental attribute and impact to what we are doing and we are happy to be doing it. We feel like we are part of the solution -- every time we put up a turbine we're reducing the dependence on fossil fuels which we think is a net positive impact on the environment.
What is your vision for the future?
We intend to be a leading utility for rural America and potentially other countries as well. Meaning, we will be able to offer energy solutions to rural markets, farmers, business owners and businesses to help them save money on their bills and other utilities all well. For example, because we have towers going up, we could also provide wireless internet and cell access.
I started this business in SoHo. I was in the New York City incubator and when we got large enough to graudate I was looking for spaces and I came down to DUMBO. I fell in love with the loft, the neighborhood, the potential and also the fact that there were a lot of other start up companies in a similar stage to us that were moving here. I think the price was right and the neighborhood is vibrant with start ups. Also, a lot of our team members live in Brooklyn so it was convenient. One stop out of the city and a few stops away from other parts of Brooklyn. A convenient, affordable and cool place.
Any favorite spots in DUMBO?
We like the wine bar on Jay street. We go there a lot for drinks and appetizers. I like atrium for dinner and Caliexico burrito cart in the summer. I also love the new Jay Street walkway that connects us to the Brooklyn Bridge Park. It's amazing.