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This month, we profile one of our newest Green Business Network members, Angel Wind Energy. When the housing market tanked in 2008, the Harrouns (the family behind Angel Wind Energy) were in the general construction trade, and saw their business drying up. So, they took action, and made a switch to a more specialized business -- residential wind energy -- before joining our business network last year, in 2009.
We asked Ben Harroun to tell us more about his company's move into wind energy, their sourcing standards for the turbines they install, and the origin of the "angel" in their name.
Green America: What does your business do, and what is your most popular product?
Installing a Skystream 3.7 in Beech Mountain, North Carolina in 2008.
Ben Harroun: Angel Wind Energy Inc. was founded in 2008 to bring the advanced renewable energy technologies to the masses in Illinois and Indiana. Our specialty, as our name implies, are wind energy products. Our most popular product is the Skystream 3.7 residential wind turbine. Designed by Southwest Windpower in 2006, it fits many people's budget and needs.
What makes your business green?
Ben: Our company is green in several ways. We not only sell the products to promote self-generation of clean, renewable energy, but we also offer consultation services to reduce the carbon footprint of our clients at no additional cost. We sell wind turbines of all sizes to alleviate or eliminate the need for utility-based coal fired power. We are a small family-owned and -operated company that follows principles that our family has used in our businesses for decades, focusing on customer and company satisfaction. Angel Wind Energy uses recycling, renewables, and eco- friendly products in all of our operations when available. We only offer products that are of high quality from companies with proper reputations as offering workers necessary benefits and optimal schedules. We personally tour the facilities when possible to make our decisions.
Roughly 80 percent of our brands are manufactured in right here in North America, including the Skystream 3.7, which is made in Flagstaff, Arizona. We're proud that every Skystream system we install (and most of our other brands as well) helps to keep Americans employed and building cleaner energy for our country's future. The only overseas products we carry also have to be at the top of their tier on the world scale also, and this includes robustness, durability, and social responsibility to their workers in all of the companies' practices.
What motivated you to start Angel Wind Energy?
One of the most modern systems on the market, this Windspire turbine is manufactured here in the US, in Manistee, Michigan.
Ben: Angel Wind Energy was formed in response to two dynamics. We began in the housing/general construction trade over thirty years ago with the goal of providing quality low-cost housing in our area for families that could not afford traditional housing. As the housing market began to slow in 2008, we begin to look for new ways to incorporate our talents in a changing industry.
We heard about a 200-megawatt wind farm on the horizon in our area, and the answer seemed to be right in front of us; use the wind! Michael Harroun, president of Angel Wind Energy, has been self-employed most of his life and has had tremendous success in several businesses ranging from movie theaters to automotive recycling and repair. In the face of a changing housing market and growing renewable energy market, we decided to harness that expertise to help homeowners become energy-independent with their own wind-powered energy sources at home.
Is there a story behind your name?
Ben: The name Angel Wind Energy is an extension of our principle business, Angel Services. The name originated with the discovery of a small guardian angel statue on the top self in the back of our original office building, the sole resident of the abandoned space.
What have been some of the biggest challenges of maintaining high standards of social and environmental responsibility?
Ben: It has sometimes been hard to find dependable suppliers to represent -- companies that follow social practices akin to our standards, and that can also be competitive with other companies that offer shoddier service and cheaper products that some of our clientele would often prefer. We push our values and the reasoning behind them. Eventually, we manage to convince people to look at their product choices based on higher principles than price and savings.
What's been your proudest moment as a green business owner?
A Skystream 3.7 installation in Frankfort, Illinois in 2009.
Ben: We love it when we get calls back from our customers telling us how much money they've saved on their utility bills or how much their turbines are inspiring their neighbors to make more eco conscious decisions. Our inspiration arrives in the inbox on a weekly basis. Every time we get a news story on people becoming more accepting of our products or going green in general, we know that we contributing our part to the equation.
What advice would you give to other green entrepreneurs just starting out?
Ben: When you are looking to develop a green business, you need to pay extra attention to your customer's needs and desires. Make sure you get back to people as soon as possible, and remember this above all else: Without your customers, you have no business.
What's the next green step you guys are working on?
Ben: We are looking into expanding beyond offering just renewables in our business. We are currently working to form an off-shoot of Angel Wind Energy as Angel Energy Services. This branch will handle energy-efficiency products, such as installation of geothermal and biomass HVAC systems, solar-thermal and tankless water heating, and products that will reduce power consumption through an energy auditing program with thermal imaging. We will be covering the entire scope of energy associations with these means.
What one green product could you not live without?
Ben: I really love my TS Designs T-shirts. They are the most comfortable, good looking, lasting t-shirts I have ever owned and I even use them for some of our product promotions and for our staff T-shirts.