Chris Maxwell and Brian Gramm were tailgating when they realized they could change the world with solar on the smallest simplest scale.
The two come from business backgrounds and had done a lot of different work. Maxwell worked with the Federal Reserve early in his career and ultimately found himself consulting in the renewable energy realm.
Working in the solar sector made the two keenly aware that it was an industry ripe with opportunity and they were looking for ways to break in. They’d considered building a business around financing utility-scale projects and other ideas that were equally grand involving big investments and massive energy production.
But Maxwell was tailgating at a football game in South Dakota when the idea that would become the foundation of Peppermint Energy was born.
“Everyone who had portable power had these loud gas-powered generators,” Maxwell said. “They were heavy and noisy and it was a hot day with a lot of sun.”
He knew there should be a better way to get portable power. But it wasn’t enough to be able to power a portable iPod player at a football game, he said. It needed to be genuinely useful, not just for recreationists, but also for the 3 billion people around the world living off the grid.
“The next vision was, how do we build a unit that can run a dorm fridge, six LED lights, several fans and do it 24 hours a day?”
They did the basic legwork and went on Kickstarter for funding. The $25,000 Peppermint raised has helped the business launch. But it did more than that. “It was great to get that validation,” Maxwell said.
The Forty2, named as a homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey’s reference to the number that explains the meaning of life, the universe and everything, contains 180 to 200 watts of solar and a 500 watt hour Lithium Ion battery.
It’s designed to run a dorm fridge, six LED lights and several fans or the equivalent day and night for the life of the battery. The first 250 units are in production now and should be ready to shi out to Kickstarter supporters and some distributors.
Maxwell said more than 50 international distributors have contacted Peppermint since the Kickstarter launch to say they’re interested in buying it.