| Jun 05, 2008

Jun 5/08 - Eco Alternative Energy

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Feature Article - June 5, 2008 Eco-Alternative EnergyBy Jeff Green

Ron Kortekaas of Eco Alternative Energy.

Ron and Anne Kortekaas opened an alternative energy store in Sharbot Lake three years ago, with the idea of serving the growing market of seasonal and permanent residents who are located in remote locations that are not served by Ontario Hydro.

As they enter their fourth summer in business, they have seen circumstances change. The price of hydro has risen, and investments in alternative technology take less time to pay for themselves through savings on products and on people’s electrical bills. “More than ever people have an interest in environmental sustainability, in generating their own power,” said Anne Kortekaas in an interview from the store last week.

Ron and Anne have also learned a lot about business. The store is no longer a franchise store. Eco Alternative Energy is now a stand alone store, and it is part of a co-operative buying group with stores in Kingston, Peterborough and Toronto.

“The difference in the pricing we can offer now is significant,” said Ron of the advantages of the new set-up, which has been in place since early last fall. “The price on solar panels and wind generators, solar water heaters, evacuated tube technologies, etc., has gone down over the years, and with Eco-Alternative we can be confident that we are offering the best possible price.”

Eco Alternative is a service business, and Ron Kortekaas offers installation and follow up service year round to customers. “We have developed relationships with local plumbers, electricians and builders to install and service different kinds of products we offer,” he said.

The range of products at Eco-Alternative is large, and getting larger. From systems for entirely off-grid living, to systems that hook into the electrical grid to reduce the need for hydro and turn the power metre back during sunny or windy weather, to systems that take advantage of hydro’s standard program to pay 42 cents per Kw, Eco-Alternative is up to speed on current regulations and government offers and they sell technology that is designed to take advantage of those.

“Every week, it seems that there is a new program or a new wrinkle added to an existing program, and we get all that information, so we provide people with forms to fill out for rebates when they buy different products,” said Anne Kortekaas.

Over the years, Ron has been involved in a number of projects, from off-grid houses to solar panel and wind turbine supplemental systems, solar heated pools, etc. “The important thing is to size systems properly, use top quality equipment and to be available if the customer has questions,” he said.

One current project that Eco-Alternative Energy is engaged in is a partnership with the Central Frontenac Fire Department at the new tower that is slated for Mountain Grove. The tower will be used for communication purposes for emergency services, and through Utilities Kingston it is also being outfitted for high speed internet for local schools.

Eco-Alternative is providing a solar powered system with batteries that will work together with hydro to run the tower and charge the batteries, and if there should be a power outage the batteries will run the system for uninterrupted emergency service.

With hydro and fuel prices headed in only one direction, the increasing affordability of alternative technology, and people’s increasing desire to limit their environmental footprint, Eco-Alternative Energy is the kind of business that promises to be a regional asset for years to come.

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