Greg Campbell, CEO of VGrid Energy Systems
Greg Campbell is a natural problem solver. The more complex and difficult the dilemma, the better. So it’s no surprise that the problem he chose to tackle as an entrepreneur is climate change.
âI love Jim Collins’ book about big, hairy, daring goals,â he says. “I can’t think of a bigger goal than trying to tackle this climate change problem that we all face.”
Greg is the CEO of VGrid energy systems, a California-based company that converts agricultural waste into electricity while capturing carbon from waste and converting it into products, such as animal feed and soil amendments, that keep carbon out of the atmosphere.
VGrid sells low-carbon electricity at a discounted rate to customers such as farmers and agribusinesses, while disposing of bio-waste for them free of charge, which means customers save money at the same time. on waste disposal and on electricity.
The business model is based on a technology called gasification, which has been in use for decades but has not seen mass adoption in the energy market due to long-standing technical difficulties: the process tends to obstruct energy sources. machines.
“I can’t think of a bigger goal than trying to tackle this climate change problem that we all face.”
âWe’ve done a lot of work on developing technological software solutions, machine learning, different types of shaking and vibrating techniques to keep things running smoothly and reliably over long periods of time,â says Greg.
The next technological hurdle to overcome was to make electric generators run more efficiently on syngas, the fuel produced by gasifiers and which has a much lower calorific value than traditional fuels.
âWe had to build our own microprocessor-controlled mixing system to precisely control the air-fuel ratio and keep good emissions out of the engine,â he adds. âSo there are a lot of smart people doing a good job in this area. “
Over the next five years, VGrid’s goal is to install 1,000 of its machines in the United States producing 360 million kilowatt hours per year, which will prevent the emission of 180,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the gas. natural and 264,000 tonnes of emissions from agricultural waste.
The company also has global ambitions and is in talks with a potential partner to start operations in Australia.
âAll that really makes our business model work is the ability to sell carbon. “
In order to really grow, Greg says VGrid is looking for a great retail partner through which he can sell products made from the carbon he captures from bio-waste. The company has previously produced cat litter deodorant and stable deodorant, as well as various animal feed and soil improvement products.
However, there are many other ways to monetize this byproduct. âBut all that really makes our business model work is the ability to sell carbon,â he shares.
To demonstrate this, he offers a hypothesis: If VGrid charges $ 0.12 per kilowatt hour for electricity from one of his machines, he can earn around $ 12 per hour. But by this time, the machine is also producing 40 pounds of carbon, which VGrid can sell for around US $ 80.
A key goal now is to find a partner with a large footprint and in-depth institutional knowledge of product innovation to harness this additional value. âI would love to find a great retail customer partner like Walmart or Target and work with them to develop private label products. Carbon can be used in a multitude of different health and beauty applications, such as shampoo, toothpaste and deodorant, âsays Greg.
Greg also hopes to gain the attention of key business thought leaders who are interested in climate change and make their operations carbon neutral or even carbon negative.
âMarc Benioff and Salesforce launched this 1t.org initiative that brought together a whole group of business leaders to plant a trillion trees. It’s awesome. I would love to tap into it, âhe says.
âI know Microsoft, Google and Amazon are all committed to being carbon neutral. Microsoft even recently announced that it wanted to be carbon negative. So we want to find partner companies who need to use renewable energies and who could help us in return.
âI would love to find a great retail customer partner like Walmart or Target and work with them to develop private label products. “
VGrid works towards these ambitious goals by setting clear and definable goals with explicit deadlines and for which specific people and teams are responsible.
âWe have goals that put everyone on the same page, and we make sure we don’t have too many, to focus on the majors and not the minors,â says Greg. âSomeone needs to take ownership of achieving that goal, and they need to be given the resources to be able to do it. You need to have a time and date on the goal so that you can make sure you’re progressing quickly, because as a startup, time is in a way our enemy.
Another thing that keeps Greg going is stern optimism that the biggest problem humanity faces can be solved. “If we can plant more trees to take more CO2 out of the atmosphere and prevent CO2 from going back into the atmosphere by preventing the burning and decomposition of dead trees, then we can bend the curve down,” he emphasizes. âNature gave us the solution.