What’s in the box? — BoxPower Inc., CEO, Angelo Campus is on a mission to bring renewable & environmentally-sustainable energy to the world
Special to The Union
Across the globe, 1.2 billion people are living in the dark. One in seven — 16 percent of the world’s population — have little or no access to electricity.
A Grass Valley man is on a mission to help solve the energy poverty crisis.
Angelo Campus is the founder and CEO of BoxPower Inc., which is quite literally power in a box. The renewable energy startup company provides off-grid communities with affordable, portable microgrid infrastructures in shipping containers.
“BoxPower combines the benefits of off-grid renewable energy with the affordability of utility-scale infrastructure,” said Campus, a millennial mastermind just 25-years-old.
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Within each 20-foot shipping container is a 48-panel pre-assembled solar array, optional wind turbine unit on a tilt-up tower, back-up bio-diesel fuel generator, and battery bank for energy storage. It’s essentially a plug-and-play hybrid energy system capable of powering five to 10 off-grid homes.
“We sold our first system to the Ramapough Lenape Tribe in northern New Jersey last August,” Campus said. “This week we’ll send our second system to Puerto Rico to be deployed with a grass-roots community disaster relief organization.”
The patent-pending design ensures reliable and low-cost energy for half the price of operating a diesel generator. Each container sells for $4 per watt; the typical 20 kilowatt system costs approximately $80,000. A BoxPower system can be set up in a single day without specialized tools or equipment, and multiple units can be connected to meet larger energy demands.
Bit by the energy bug
Growing up in Nevada City, Campus said he started creating and designing energy systems at an early age.
“I’ve been building electrical circuits, solar devices, and bicycle-powered generators since I was 6-years-old,” said Campus. “It’s been a lifelong obsession. My sixth birthday present from my parents was a soldering gun.”
The Nevada Union High School graduate moved east in 2011 when he was accepted to Princeton University in New Jersey. He graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2016. One might wonder why it took this power prodigy five years to graduate.
“I took a year off and lived on an off-grid farm in Polynesia herding goats,” he said. “Yes, I was a goat herder. After two years at Princeton, I needed to do that.”
Initially, his Princeton program focused on Engineering, but that field of study turned out to be too restrictive for Campus.
“I switched from Engineering and designed my own major that I called Technological Development,” said Campus. “My senior thesis criticized Western development practices in emerging economies, with a focus on energy systems and infrastructure.”
Campus developed the BoxPower concept as a way to provide power to disaster-ravaged areas, such as Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. The idea has since morphed into a commercial company that sells rapidly-deployable renewable energy systems that are affordable, clean, and convenient.
The startup has raised more than a half-million dollars, some from investors and some from prestigious grants and awards.
“Our prototype design won a $90,000 grant at the Environmental Protection Agency’s P3 Sustainable Design Expo while I was still a student at Princeton,” said Campus. “We received our first institutional investment from Princeton’s alumni entrepreneur fund, a venture capital fund that invests in startups created by Princeton alumni. We also received an Echoing Green 2017 Climate Fellowship of $80,000, which are awarded to socially- or environmentally-impactful organizations.”
After graduating from Princeton in June of 2016, Campus returned to California. His decision to move back home was spurred by his love of Nevada County, and a desire to reunite with his father and grandparents.
“The deciding factor was that my dad is a contractor with a lot of experience in renewable energy and solar,” said Campus. “He was our first full-time employee.”
Angelo’s father, Gary Campus, said working with his son is a dream come true.
“It’s amazing for me to be doing what I love to do and having him excel in the field I’ve been interested in the past 30 years,” said the senior Campus. “From a very early age, he was a scientist. He knew more about physics and environmental issues than I did and he was teaching me when he was just five or six. He excelled in anything mechanical.”
Bringing light to the dark corners of the world
The future is bright for BoxPower, even if the for-profit company is not yet profitable.
“We’re spending our startup money designing, testing, and optimizing our systems,” Campus said. “We’re now launching into a revenue-generating phase, and we just finished our first promotional commercial video.”
That video was shot earlier this month at the Nevada County Fairgrounds.
“We are using it primarily as a social media marketing tool, with the goal of making a viral video,” said Campus.
The company is pursuing other opportunities to spread its message.
“We are participating in an Accelerator Program at the University of Alaska designed to bring renewable energy technologies to remote and off-grid communities, with a focus on indigenous and first nation tribes,” said Campus.
BoxPower was one of four energy companies selected to complete the four-month program in Anchorage and receive business training, technical assistance, and networking connections, plus $75,000 in exchange for equity in their companies. The four companies will showcase their products to the local community and potential investors at the Launch Alaska Accelerator Demo Day in June.
“Our goal is to explore Alaskan energy markets and take on the technological challenge of bringing electrification to cold, harsh, high-latitude environments,” said Campus. “Our hope is to transport our commercial activities to Alaska, or build them there. We’ll be working with our target customers, which are Alaska utility companies.”
As it continues to grow, BoxPower’s business focus is three-pronged.
“The market applications we’re exploring are disaster relief, rural electrification, and off-grid agriculture,” said Campus. “There are a lot of big green houses that use a lot of power. We can provide a renewable and more environmentally-sustainable energy system for off-grid, greenhouse agriculture. We can provide the same reliability as a diesel generator for a fraction of the operating costs, and ours is quieter, safer, and cheaper.”
Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. To suggest a business news feature, contact her at LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com.
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