SkyBuilt aims to be the Dell of renewable energy systems
If you have a unique power need that is off grid, and you want
something that can deploy quickly, is rugged, and will last for a long time,
SkyBuilt is who you call. The CIA shouldn't be the only one to benefit.
D. Allan and Mary-Sue
Pure Energy Systems News - Exclusive Interview
Copyright © 2005
|20' x 8.5' x 8'-foot wide Mobile Power
Station (MPS) unit designed for rapid deployment of a fuel-less
power system on display in Arlington, Virginia.
|Photo credit: SkyBuilt
Power Inc; Rich Clabaugh, staff
...drop MPS unit from helicopter...
remote water pump with MPS.
ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA, USA
SkyBuilt Power recently captured the world's imagination with news that the
CIA's venture capital firm, In-Q-Tel, has invested in their company and has a
development agreement with them. SkyBuilt is an energy solutions company that
makes innovative renewable energy systems. One product on the drawing board is a
wind-solar hybrid power unit that can be parachuted to a rugged location and
deployed within a few hours by two people.
In fact, a steerable wing-type of parachute can be guided by remote control to
get it to an otherwise inaccessible location.
The units can be configured to deliver anywhere from 3.5 to 150 kilowatts of
electricity, depending on how many options are included.
Though there have been many solar and wind technologies developed, whats new
here is the ability to combine them in a tidy package. Using the heavy and
rugged steel container as a base means that it is not necessary to pour heavy
footings and install towers and guy wires to support the turbine, or hold solar
panels steady against wind pressure.
The modular setup allows off-the-shelf components of many types to be added,
including combustion-based generators and alternators, solar panels, wind
turbines, and batteries.
I was able to interview the company's president and CEO, Dave Muchow, to learn
more about what they do and why and for whom. Very fascinating.
He said that because of the recent coverage of their company, he received some
100 calls yesterday ranging from church groups inquiring about getting a unit,
to inventors with ideas to pass along. I caught him at a good time and was
able to get a lot of great information.
He didn't much care for the "plop and go" slogan I offered. He
prefers "drop and operate." Among themselves they call it the
"clean, green power machine".
Muchow said that his inspiration and model in forming the company was the laptop
computer, with its plug-and-play versatility of components, from the chips to
the hardware and the peripherals. The open architecture enables a mixing
and matching of components to suit the individual user so that they don't have
more than they need, and they can just add on what they might be missing.
Apply that now to renewable energy systems. That is what SkyBuilt is all
about, and has been tackling since 2002 when they started. That is the
essence of the 140 claims they have filed in their patent applications.
They want to be the Dell of renewable energy systems.
"We are the world's first plug-and-play, open architecture, mobile, and
expandable renewable power system," said Muchow.
Call them up, tell them your needs, and they pull together a package based on
their wide experience and network of experts that they can call upon to make an
ideal system, providing the highest value, at the lowest price possible.
Is your climate cloudy but windy? Is it extra cold? Is your cabin is larger than
usual, and you have chemical sensitivities? SkyBuilt will weigh all those
factors, look at the energy requirement, then recommend the combination of
technologies that will best suit your situation. The system could also
integrate diesel, propane, natural gas or gasoline-powered generators.
"However, the supply-line for fuel can be problematic in many of the
emergency-response applications we handle", said Muchow.
Additionally, he points out that in addition to being clean, the 5-10 kilowatt
renewable energy systems, for example, can be 50% more cost-effective than
diesel gensets -- sometimes as much as 90% more efficient.
A team of professionals can do far better than one person can do by
himself. Think of what is involved. You have to research all the
various possible vendors for all the various components of the system, weigh the
pros and cons, and then make a determination of the most inexpensive, compatible
match of components for the proposed system. That task can be daunting for
an individual who has other things they need to be doing with their time.
It can be handled much more efficiently by people who have made their lifetime
careers out of energy technology and all its various facets, and who specialize
in this matching of suitable systems.
Muchow served as a General Counsel for thirty years in the energy industry,
representing 300 natural gas and electric utilities before he launched SkyBuilt,
so he himself has a wealth of knowledge on the subject, and he knows how to
network with companies.
The company has contracts with leading renewable energy suppliers, and can
access systems from pretty much any manufacturer. "We use
off-the-shelf components and adapt them to be plug-and-play so you don't have to
replace the operating system when an individual component changes," said
"What you find in the industry is that nuclear people don't talk much to
solar people. They specialize in their own focused area of research and
development," he said. Meanwhile, the customer might only need a
portion of this, a smattering of that, but the specialists only know about their
"We think sideways, across the many companies, rather than focused on any
one. The customer wants a cross section that represents the best solution
for their particular needs".
While the direct personnel staffing at SkyBuilt is lean, by networking with
those who have the skills they need, they are able to respond to whatever
scenario is presented to them. They have independent contractor relations
with numerous electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, stress engineers, as
well as access to business and legal expertise required. They farm out the
construction of the systems they build, similar to the Ferrari model of business
"We try not to turn anyone away," said Muchow. The home market is
one they are interested in tackling, but that wont come for a while. Up until
now they have specialized in government contracts. Their forte is in situations
where there is a need for rapid deployment of a system, such as in disasters or
in developing countries. But the Dell model for renewable energy systems is a
principle that can be applied much more broadly.
"We could haul a solar-powered water pumping system into a remote area by
donkey, install it in a day, and it will last for decades," said Muchow.
"The first solar panels installed in the 1950's are still working," he
Part of SkyBuilt's patent claims has to do with the idea of using shipping
containers to package and deliver the systems, with easy-to-follow instructions
for assembly and disassembly. "We made this as dummy-proof and
reliable as possible. Red piece lines up with red piece."
I make the suggestion that while the home installation doesn't require the
permanent location of a shipping container along with it, the shipping container
could be used to deliver the system, then be sent back to the company to ship
another system to a different customer.
The advantages of the shipping container are many, among which is ease of
shipping. These containers are used worldwide in trucking, trains,
shipping and air freight. They are like the tower that houses the
PC. They all look alike on the outside, but can be very different on the
inside, though the inside is really just a particular combination of reoccurring
"Think of all the uses for the container once the components are out of it
and assembled," said Muchow. "It can be turned into a medical
clinic, a fire house, a birthing clinic, a police station, civic building, or
even a school." The SkyBuilt.com website itemizes yet further uses of
the interior of the Mobile Power Station: "air-conditioned office space,
telecommunications, medical center, emergency operations/command center or
In disaster response, which is one of their primary applications, having a
clean, sturdy, enclosable small building can be as helpful as the power system
that comes packaged in it. According to the company website, "The container
can be heated and cooled for climate-controlled and lighted storage, office,
medical clinic, border patrol facility, telecom, operations centers, or other
secure, self-powered space in any environment from the desert to the
"And it floats," said Muchow, noting that sometimes shipping
containers will fall off ships en route to their destination. A floating
container can also be a crucial component in a hurricane or flood. Maybe
you could even drop it into the water, row it to where you need it, and
deploy. There is no absence of wind in hurricane response.
The ruggedizing is in the container itself, and the patented connectors.
Designed to avoid the problem of jerry-rigged exposed wiring that can be nibbled
by animals and corroded by natural processes, these rugged modular connections
will enable the portable station to withstand degradation caused by temperature
extremes and other factors.
The MPS can even be left unmanned for extended periods, and operated by remote
control, This would have many uses, such as a border-monitoring station in
A chief benefit from the military point of view is that the solar power
generation is silent, and lacks the heat signature of a fuel-burning generator
that could give away its location. A small wind turbine such as that depicted on
the site can be low-noise as well, storing extra energy to high-capacity
batteries. With such obvious advantages for covert work, you can see why the
In-Q-tel has invested in it.
Hopefully, the technology will not find its most frequent application in
facilitating war, or even make it easier to set up martial law in a disaster
While SkyBuilt is poised to obtain patent protection for the container
deployment concept, the Dell concept is one that can be mirrored by many
companies, in addition to SkyBuilt. Hopefully such competition will speed
the time when home and small business customers can enter into a buying
revolution akin to the computer revolution when personal computers began to
start showing up in most every home and office.
# # #
SkyBuilt Power Inc
4449 N. 38th Street, Arlington, VA 22207
Phone: 703.536.7866 | Toll-Free: 866.786.2845 | Fax: 703.536.7836
Page composed by Sterling
D. Allan Oct. 18, 2005
Last updated December 24, 2014