Friday, August 26, 2016

SUNRNR of Virginia, Inc. Named National FEMA Award Winner

HARRISONBURG, VA. (August 25, 2016)—Winners of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) 2016 Individual and Community Preparedness Awards were announced August 24, 2016, with Harrisonburg-based SUNRNR of Virginia, Inc. taking top honors in the Technological Innovation category. This year’s award recipients developed innovative practices and programs that contributed to making communities safer, better prepared, and more resilient.

“We are more prepared for disasters when everyone in the community works together,” said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. “FEMA is proud to honor individuals and organizations who are building communities that are more prepared for emergencies through creativity, innovation and collaboration.”

The 11 FEMA Individual and Community Preparedness Award recipients will be recognized on September 13, 2016 in Washington, D.C. During the recognition ceremony, recipients will share their experiences, success stories, and lessons learned with fellow emergency management leaders. Jenny and Scott French will represent SUNRNR at the event.

“Having reliable, affordable and clean power backup during an outage or emergency isn’t just a pipedream anymore,” says SUNRNR of Virginia’s Jenny French. “You can prepare for that inevitable “rainy day” and store some sunshine and grid power to use during emergencies,” she added.

The three-person team behind SUNRNR of Virginia Inc., Alan Mattichak, Jenny French and Scott French. Photo courtesy Mark Rhodes and Virginia Business magazine.
SUNRNR (“Sun Runner”) of Virginia, Inc. manufactures a product useful before (mitigation), during (response), and after (recovery) such emergency-related lack of electrical power.  Public education and the promotion of preparedness are a major element of SUNRNR’s mission, with the goal of encouraging system owners, both personal and commercial, to be better prepared for the dangers and after-effects of a disaster and to participate in the response and recovery efforts.

In addition to the FEMA recognition, SUNRNR is also participating in FEMA’s annual National Preparedness Month during September by offering an “Are You Powered for Emergencies?” online Q & A event that will allow participants to post questions or comments about how to identify and prepare for emergency power needs, how to use stand-alone power to respond to and/or support recovery after disaster events, and overall, how to implement a sustainable power strategy. Interested individuals should visit to join the chat.

National Preparedness Month is an awareness-raising event aimed at educating and empowering Americans to prepare for and respond to all types of emergencies, including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks. The monthly series of public service announcements and events culminates in America’s PrepareAthon! on September 30. More than 6 million organizations, businesses and individual citizens have already signed up to participate in the PrepareAthon.

As an added incentive for citizens be more prepared for all types of emergencies, SUNRNR will offer $150 off an upgrade to a second set of solar panels with any purchase of a SUNRNR portable generator system through September 30, 2016. If buying in the U.S., purchasers have the option of receiving a free AC-DC charger with purchase instead.

The online chat and sales promotion are part of SUNRNR’s ongoing commitment to educate consumers about energy issues, consumption, and conservation in relation to disaster preparedness.  Together, the hundreds of SUNRNR’s in use to date would make a 135kW solar-plus-storage power plant, but with no infrastructure required. Combined, their total 1GWh would have required over 300,000 gallons of fossil fuel (2700 tons CO2) for comparable gas generators, or caused 700 tons of emissions if grid-generated.

Information about SUNRNR products can be found at or by contacting Jenny French at or Scott French at, 540.271.3403. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Small & Distributed Energy Systems a Natural Solution to Providing Worldwide Reliable Power

Portable Solar, Wind, and Water Generators Are Impacting Isolated Communities and Remote Operations

In early October, 2015, Category 4 Hurricane Joaquin tore through the Bahamas causing torrential rainfall, storm surge flooding and total blackouts. On Crooked Island, one of the hardest-hit islands, about 85 percent of the homes in one settlement were reportedly destroyed, and residents were isolated without fresh water, power, or communications. A makeshift health clinic was set up in what was left of the airport terminal, but without power, the clinic was severely limited without lighting and the ability to refrigerate medicine.

Seven days after the storm, that critical power was restored to the clinic by a SUNRNR Portable Solar+Storage Generator, delivered through a massive relief operation.

“I cannot believe that a road can be totally taken by the seas. Its unbelievable…You have to see this to believe it.”
                                                                                        - Island Official
As was the case with Hurricane Joaquin, severe weather events can escalate rapidly, and damage to infrastructure and communication systems can delay relief efforts. In a calamity like the recent Nepal earthquake where road access was cut off and no relief solution could be trucked in, countless people are left without the light, communication, or clean drinking water that is so critical for survival.

Portable and decentralized power systems that produce energy on-site and off-grid can be an immediate, life-saving tool during and after emergencies.
John Hingley, creator of Renovagen Roll-Array, says delivering fuel for diesel generators can be impossible or cost-prohibitive in many circumstances. His company’s new thin, portable solar panel can be air-dropped from a helicopter and unrolled like a carpet. The 50 meter long “micro-grid-in-a-box” can be in full operation a few minutes after it is deployed and could be used, Hingley says, to power a remote hospital, forward operating base, or off-grid mining station.


The lack of wastewater treatment in remote regions or in devastated communities can quickly develop into a health crisis.  REGEN, the world’s first solar powered, mobile wastewater treatment plant, fits into two shipping containers and doesn’t require a highly skilled operator on-site once the system is installed. The company’s target markets include humanitarian organizations directing disaster relief and refugee settlements, agricultural and mining operations, and remote rural communities.  “Small, isolated villages…have limited infrastructure budgets,” says co-founder Dr. Patrick Kiely.  “They ship in diesel once a year at great expense and use it to run everything. A renewable, self-powered wastewater system solves a multitude of problems.”

Reliable Power Increases Economic Stability and Security

Access to affordable and reliable energy is fundamental to reducing poverty, improving health and safety, and promoting economic growth. Electricity means clean water, education, heat, nighttime emergency hospital procedures, incubators for newborns, and communication services.  But around the world, 1.3 billion people lack access to electricity.

New developments within the portable solar, wind and water generator industries hold promise for reducing this dilemma. Solar technology is helping farmers in Africa combat water scarcity and communities develop self-reliance. And from a small collapsible wind turbine to harvesting nature’s kinetic energy, innovators are designing renewable energy solutions to bring power to the energy poor.

No Noise, No Fuel, No Fumes: Portable Solar Power Is Leading The Charge

Many of the recent developments in portable renewable power had their testing grounds within military and industrial applications.  Essential needs like lighting, clean water and sanitation, and communication capabilities hold true not just for humanitarian missions but also for forward military operations, construction sites, and mining stations.

Off-grid renewable solutions like SUNRNR Portable Solar+Storage Generators are replacing or augmenting gasoline generators on job sites.  With solar comes: zero fuel requirements on location, fewer moving parts, improved Environmental Impact Assessments, compliance with noise ordinances, and no fumes.

Renewable energy is a viable, cost-saving alternative for the construction industry, says the managing Director for Laing O-Rourke, developer of the world’s first fully redeployable large-scale solar-diesel hybrid power plant. “As specialists in major remote and regional projects, we have an opportunity to harness vast amounts of solar energy at our projects, for a sustainable engineering solution. Construction and engineering must break away from traditional processes if it is to evolve and deliver projects quickly, safely and more sustainably.”

The old model of generating electricity has always relied on transporting fuel or creating power far away and then transmitting that power. But now through the use of portable solar, wind, and water generators, communities and companies are able to shift to a “Small and Distributed” energy system – one that can produce reliable and life-altering power, on-site and on-demand.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Virginia Business Exporting Push - More state money, new agency will promote international sales

Please see the original publication of this story written by Jessica Sabbath for the July 2016 issue of Virginia Business Magazine.
The three-person team behind SUNRNR of Virginia Inc., Alan Mattichak, 
Jenny French and Scott French. Photo by Mark Rhodes

In 2008, the founders of SUNRNR of Virginia Inc. began a business in the Shenandoah Valley selling portable, solar-powered generators.
The three executives believed Americans’ growing appetite for clean energy would fuel demand for the generators, which can be used as backup power or as off-grid energy sources.
What the founders didn’t foresee at first was the product’s potential market abroad — particularly on islands or in rural areas where power sources can be unpredictable.
“It’s not that Africa is necessarily looking for green products, but they just need power,” says Jenny French, president of SUNRNR, who leads the business with her husband, Scott, and Alan Mattichak, the inventor of the generators.
Today, the Shenandoah-based company sells generators in countries such as Angola, Ghana, Morocco and Japan. In the Republic of Palau, an island nation in the western Pacific Ocean, the generators are used to power circulation pumps for a fish hatchery. Last year, the company’s generators arrived in the Bahamas just days before Hurricane Joaquin struck. One generator was sent to power a health clinic in a region that had been without power for seven days.
French has used a range of local, state and federal export-assistance programs to build overseas sales for SUNRNR.  She has even served on an exporters roundtable at the White House.
All along the way, she’s received help from the International Trade division of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), including a recent grant she used for a trade mission to the Canary Islands and the translation of company documents into Spanish.
Business leaders and government officials believe thousands of Virginia companies also could find potential markets abroad — a move which could be particularly helpful to the state economy in the face of federal budget cuts.
“We cannot make ourselves as vulnerable as we were four or five years ago when we lost about $9.8 billion in direct spending from the Department of Defense,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe said during a May speech to the Virginia International Business Council in Richmond. “We’ve got to become less reliant [on federal spending], and we can only do that through international trade.”
And so the commonwealth is putting an emphasis on developing exports with new programs, additional funding and the creation of an entity dedicated to international trade — the Virginia International Trade Corp. (VITC).
A new focus on trade
For years, Virginia’s business community has sought ways to increase exporting opportunities. “We have been looking at international trade as an important feature of transitioning into a new Virginia economy,” says Barry DuVal, president and CEO of the Richmond-based Virginia Chamber of Commerce. “We recognize that 95 percent of the world’s population lives outside the U.S., and providing more tools for businesses to export their products and services will provide more opportunities in the world market.”
VEDP’s International Trade division now houses Virginia’s export-assistance programs, which have received rave reviews from many companies. “I haven’t run into another government organization that acts more like a consulting firm than VEDP,” says Joe Fluet, CEO of Momentum Aerospace Group, a firm that provides aerial surveillance to the U.S. government. The company recently expanded internationally, exporting to the United Arab Emirates, the Philippines, Canada, NATO and the United Nations.
The Woodbridge-based company graduated earlier this year from VEDP’s Virginia Leaders in Export Trade (VALET), a two-year program designed to increase participants’ international sales. “We were treated like clients. They were responsive and tried to go above and beyond and cared a lot about whether I was happy or satisfied with their services,”  says Fluet.
The effectiveness of state export programs encouraged some of Virginia’s largest business associations to lobby this year for the creation of a separate group dedicated to developing trade.
VITC, they believe, will provide additional exposure to the state programs, encouraging more companies to explore foreign markets and allowing easier integration with local and federal trade programs. “When we looked out into the future, we thought that the most important economic development resource that would help the largest number of small and medium-sized manufacturers that the state would play a role in was trade,” says Brett Vassey, president and CEO of the Virginia Manufacturers Association.  “We thought the best way was to develop a trade corporation around a very practiced and proven model [with] a laser focus on trade.”
The VITC, approved by the General Assembly this year, is scheduled to officially become a separate entity next April. Until then, business groups are helping Maurice Jones, Virginia’s secretary of commerce and trade, develop a business plan.  The agency will be governed by a 17-member board of directors, including five cabinet secretaries and 12 citizens appointed by the governor.
After Senate Finance and House Appropriation committees review and approve the business plan, the governor and board will appoint VITC ‘s CEO by Dec. 1.
Investments in trade
The General Assembly also is giving the state’s trade programs a financial boost, which is especially important as some federal grants expire.
The state budget includes $1.5 million each year to continue Virginia’s Going Global Defense Initiative. That program, originally supported by a federal grant, is designed to help defense contractors hampered by lower federal spending find new markets abroad.
The state money will allow the popular program to continue, says Paul Grossman, VEDP’s vice president of international trade. Typically, funding is “sold out” within 60 to 90 days after the start of each fiscal year.
Another $400,000 from the state will double to $30,000 the money each company in the state’s VALET program can use to help with exporting expenses. The increase reflects the growing cost of doing business, says Grossman, and the  desire of many companies to market their products in more than one country.
The budget also provides $250,000 a year to help companies market their products at international trade shows.
Another $1 million each year will support the Virginia International Trade Alliance (VITAL), which began in July 2015. The program encourages trade associations to promote Virginia’s export programs to their members. The partnership already is bringing in more clients to the VEDP, including some small craft breweries looking at export opportunities.
VITAL also includes Virginia’s public universities, which work with companies to develop international market research. In just a year, about 30 companies have been paired with colleges’ research teams.
That collaboration provides an ancillary benefit, says Grossman. “Now you have kids who are coming through college who have developed the skillsets so they are prepared to work for a company doing business internationally.”
Investment in the Port of Virginia also is expected to be a major boon to international trade efforts.  The General Assembly this year approved a $350 million bond issue to increase the capacity of Norfolk International Terminals, the port’s  largest marine terminal.
David White, vice president of the Virginia Maritime Association, says this commitment, combined with the creation of a dedicated state marketing arm for exports, will reverberate in overseas markets. “Elevating the stature of trade activities in the commonwealth, I think, sends a message to the global marketplace that Virginia is trade friendly,” White says. “Anything we can do to move more cargo through those facilities only hastens the return on investment coming through the port.”
In addition to state programs, local export-assistance programs are being promoted by cities such as Norfolk and regional development groups such as the Virginia Coalfields Economic Development Authority and the Greater Richmond Partnership. “All of this is converging at the same time, and it’s not by accident,” says Vassey. “It’s really a group of us that have been working in earnest to develop a multi-tier export development network.”
Agricultural exports
Virginia also is making a major export push for agricultural and forestry products. Today, 30 to 35 percent of Virginia’s farm income results from exports.
Virginia began marketing its agricultural products aggressively under former Gov. Bob McDonnell, says Todd Haymore, Virginia secretary of agriculture and forestry, who has served two governors in that post. Since 2010, Virginia has moved up from fifth to second among the East Coast’s largest agricultural exporting states.
Haymore says McAuliffe wants Virginia to overtake Georgia to become No. 1 on that list. “[This year] the governor was as aggressive as we’ve ever been in providing even more resources and manpower to provide export enhancement,” says Haymore.
To that end, this year’s budget includes $850,000 in new funds to develop agricultural exports, including two additional export representatives in Richmond and two new trade representatives in North Africa and Southeast Asia. New money also is available for “reverse trade” missions, bringing potential customers to Virginia.
While new initiatives remain under the agriculture department’s purview, Haymore will be required in November 2017 to explain how and whether VITC will integrate any of its exporting services.
The case for trade
In the current presidential campaign, trade is getting much different play.  Presumptive nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both have denounced the current Trans-Pacific
Partnership (TPP) as a potential job killer for the U.S. TPP is a trade agreement supported by President Obama involving 12 Pacific Rim nations. Congress still must ratify the deal.
Virginia’s business leaders support the TPP.  “[TPP] includes the elimination of 18,000 taxes on exports,” says DuVal with the Virginia Chamber. “It will level the playing field for American companies to compete in the markets, and it supports good-paying jobs in America and Virginia.”
To boost its state and federal lobbying efforts, the Virginia Chamber of Commerce last year commissioned a study highlighting exports’ effects in the commonwealth.
The first-of-its kind analysis shows that exports made up 30 percent of Virginia’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth between 2009 and 2014. It also reveals that exports generated almost 320,000 jobs (about 8.5 percent of state employment) with an average annual income of $58,333. “The importance of exports to Virginia and America is often overlooked,” says DuVal.  “At the state and national level, we want policymakers to understand the facts, and we think our study helps underscore the importance of exports to the Virginia business community and the sub-regions outside the metro areas.”
The study, conducted by McDearman Associates LLC and the Raymond A. Mason School of Business at the College of William & Mary, highlights the importance of international trade in Virginia’s less-populated regions.
While Virginia’s urban areas are involved  in 60 percent of the commonwealth’s total exports, international trade made up a greater share of local economies in areas with smaller populations. For example, Bristol’s “export intensity” was 17.2 percent in 2014, while exports made up 6.2 percent of Northern Virginia’s economy.
“Virginia has two great problems that it constantly has to work on,” says Jones, the secretary of trade and commerce. “One, it is too dependent on public-sector growth, and two, the need for more balance and growth among its regions.
“The international trade space is the one solution to both of those problems,” he says.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Fish Hatchery in Palau Uses Solar Power from Alternative Energy, Inc.

Palau solar SunRunr project

When Dr. Jim McVey, the CEO of Indigo Seafood, began planning for a hatchery in the island nation of Palau, he faced a unique challenge. There is no "grid" to which the plant could connect for vital functions such as air blowers and water pumps. Consequently, he began exploring potential off-grid power solutions and became acquainted with Alternative Energy, Inc.

SUNRNR a Solar Solution

SunRunrs powering fish hatchery

After working with Alternative Energy, Inc. president Bill Finch, Dr. McVey selected a SUNRNR generator to power the plant. Because of the unique circumstances, the pair had to work to create a custom solar solution involving a pump with a variable speed starter and extra solar panels to handle the plant's needs.
Recently, Indigo Seafood completed installation of the solar system and the hatchery is now up and running.
"All the pumps and solar systems are here in Palau. Fish cages are in the water. The Seabees are helping us install everything. It is very exciting … the whole island is excited about the project," Dr. McVey reports.

A Strong Recommendation of Alternative Energy, Inc.

solar generator storage system
We are beyond thrilled to have been able to help Dr. McVey and his company set up this project.
"I would recommend Alternative Energy and Bill Finch for any of your solar system needs," says Dr. McVey.
Whether it's a remote island in the South Pacific, a quaint cabin in Appalachia, or a suburban home in Pennsylvania, Alternative Energy, Inc. has the product and expertise to meet your needs.
"I got into this business to provide solar solutions to people and companies of many different backgrounds," says Bill Finch, president of Alternative Energy, Inc. "Sometimes, that even takes you to an island you'd never heard of, and that's what I love about it."
To see how Alternative Energy, Inc. can help you find a solar solution, contact us today or call 484-593-4262.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


Step one in going solar is not sizing the Photovoltaic (PV) system, but reducing the energy needed in your home or business. To save green when you go green, first focus on increased sustainability and explore entry-level solar solutions that may provide excellent returns without major expense.  Knowing where your energy needs are highest and implementing shifts in those areas will allow you to more accurately assess the size PV system required and reduce the costs of purchase and installation.  

Focus on These 4 Areas to Increase Sustainability at Home and at Work

 1. Knowledge is power.  Literally.

Reducing energy usage and carbon emissions begins by getting an estimate of your personal carbon footprint or that of your business. The Cool Climate Network offers both a Household Calculator and a Business Calculator.  To receive practical tips to slash your emissions and your energy costs, take this quick and fun CoolerSmarter quiz and you’ll be on your way to 20% less carbon in 20 days.

2. Drive Smart: Transportation is the single biggest contributor to carbon emissions.

If you or your company are in the market for a new vehicle, you can use the calculators and comparison tools at to find the most efficient vehicle for your needs and budget.  Has your knowledge advanced with the technology? Read these Top 10 Misconceptions About Fuel Economy to make sure you are working with the latest information.

Regardless of the car you drive, you can drastically reduce your transportation emissions by simply driving more efficiently.  Slight but significant changes can save you or your business up to 20% at the pumps.

A Solar Solution: Fueling with Sunshine
1 in 3 electric vehicle owners has a home grid-tied PV system. As technologies continue to rapidly develop across the solar industry, running your car on sunshine is increasingly an option.

3. Mind the Gap: Reduce the cost and impact of home heating and cooling.

Heating and cooling are the greatest energy hogs within the home and also represent an area where you can make a significant positive impact, both on your wallet and your carbon footprint.  How do you keep your home comfortable with less energy?

Seal the Leak

Air leaks in your home may waste up to 25% of the heat your heating system generates in the winter and account for the same amount of unwanted heat your home gains in the summer. That’s equivalent to leaving a window in your home wide open all the time. A draft check followed by these simple and inexpensive solutions for energy efficient heating can help you shut that window.

 Natural Home Cooling

Landscaping, blinds, and shade screens are effective at blocking heat from entering your home. And reducing heat generated from within the house can also contribute greatly to lowering the inside temperature.  A significant source of that heat is electric lighting. In just one hour a 100 watt incandescent bulb can raise the temperature of a room by 11 degrees Fahrenheit.  One more reason to switch to cooler, more efficient LED bulbs!
“Cool roofs” are another simple strategy to lower electricity costs for your home or business.  Cool roofs reduce the amount of heat conducted to the building below and have several year-round energy-saving and cost-saving advantages over black roofs.

A Solar Solution: Evaporative Coolers

For home and business owners located in dry climates, an evaporative cooler can be a good match for PV. An evaporative cooler, also known as a swamp cooler, will only consume about one-quarter of the power of a traditional central air conditioner.

4. Vampires in the Home: Do you know where your power is going?

Learn just how much energy is being tapped by the appliances and electronics in your home or business by using this Appliance Energy Calculator. Many electronics and appliances are consuming energy, even when not in active use. And by eliminating these phantom loads you can easily and significantly reduce your energy bills.
A Solar Solution: Dedicate one appliance to be powered by the sun.

Can’t go all solar? Dedicate one appliance to run off PV, like your washing machine or well pump.

Water heating is the 2nd largest utility expense in your home. Could a solar water heater be right for you? If so, act soon and take advantage of the federal tax credit that is good until the end of 2016.

Chest refrigerators and chest freezers open from the top and the cold stays put.  Not only is the chest design more energy efficient for all homes, it also offers an incredible opportunity for those interested in entry-level solar.

“Off-grid living doesn’t mean that we go without the energy that we need, but that we live more in tune with the natural rhythms around us.”  By planning wisely and reducing waste in your home or business, you will be well on your way to successfully implementing your solar strategy.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Ecotourism: Support the Environment as you Explore the World!

While traveling, you may notice the not so environmentally-friendly habits of hotels and other travel destinations. For example, hotel staff may wash all bedsheets and towels every day, or use incandescent bulbs instead of LED bulbs. These wasteful hospitality industry standards create a negative impact on the environment.

But fear not! With hotels that partake in “ecotourism”, or, “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education” (, you can feel good about your environmental impact.

The second part of ecotourism’s definition mentions supporting the locals. Ecotourism is not only environmentally based, but community based as well. By interacting heavily with the local community, you, as an ecotourist, can have an authentic experience while at the same time giving back.

Hotels that support ecotourism are more common than you may think.
Sustainability has become more mainstream, and the tourism industry is adopting more environmental practices for their hotels. In 2015, Virginia Green hosted their Travel Star Awards ceremony in Arlington, Virginia. Twenty-one tourism businesses were recognized. Check out the full list of recipients at

Before you book your next vacation, here are a few questions to ask your potential hotel:
         Do you have a recycling or compost program?
         Do you hire locally?
         Do you have a linen/towel reuse option?
         Is your hotel a member of Green Hotels Association?
         If the hotel is in Virginia, is your hotel Virginia Green certified?
         What kind of water-saving strategies does your hotel practice?
         Does your hotel buy food locally?
         What kind of energy-conservation programs are in place at this hotel?

Friday, May 27, 2016

Daily News-Record: Valley Businesswoman Makes Return White House Visit

SUNRNR Owner In On Sustainable Energy Talk

Posted: April 30, 2016
HARRISONBURG — Jenny French is learning her way around the White House.
The president and co-owner of SUNRNR of Virginia has made three by-invitation trips to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in the last 13 months. On April 20, she was part of a group that attended a three-hour briefing on climate and sustainable energy in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House grounds.
“I’ve been so deep in the business that this reminded me that [climate change is] not just about renewable energy,” said French, whose company makes portable units that can generate and store renewable energy. “All businesses, all people will be impacted.
“This pulled me out of my job to see the bigger picture.”
French was invited to the event by Business Forward, an organization comprised of a wide range of companies from across America that advocates ways the federal government can make it easier for businesses to create jobs and advance the economy. The White House Business Council also was involved in the event.
She said Sen. Mark Warner’s office put her on Business Forward’s radar.
White House staff members and a U.S. Department of Energy official led the briefing. The clean and renewable energy economy, the impacts of climate change on human health and business, and Obama administration priorities on climate were the main discussion topics.
The importance of climate to national security, French said, also was discussed.
The overriding message, she said, was that climate affects large and small businesses. The briefing included more than 50 business leaders from across the country in fields ranging from renewable energy to food security to apparel to construction.
Among those who spoke for the businesses in attendance were someone from a ski resort that has suffered from unusual weather patterns to someone whose supply chain was disrupted by storms overseas.
SUNRNR President Thar Energy CEO
French and Thar Energy CEO at Briefing
French, a Harrisonburg resident whose company is based in Shenandoah, said she came away thinking about climate change as a global economic issue that should be dealt with.
“We need to try to let people understand the urgency of this,” she said, “without getting into the political ramifications or sides.”
Thinking Green
Climate change wasn’t directly on the agenda on either of French’s trips to the White House last year. She attended a White House Small Business Exporters Roundtable to discuss foreign trade issues, sitting next to President Barack Obama during part of the event, and was invited back when the president signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
In November, she was part of a U.S. trade mission to the Canary Islands.
French said winter is the slow season for SUNRNR (pronounced like “sunrunner”), a portable and storable system that can capture and store power generated by the sun, wind or water.
So with the help of some students from James Madison University, efforts were focused on a “soft rebranding” that included refining the company’s message, its documents and a rethinking of its name.
Many people are confused by SUNRNR, she said, so they’re considering changing it to “SUNRUNR.” The full term “sunrunner” already is trademarked.
A new product also was developed to add more solar panels. French said existing customers were contacted and told about that development, which led to additional sales and helpful customer feedback.
Multiple signs are pointing to new business for the company, she said, mainly because of the assistance it’s received from local, state and federal sources. Two dealers are meeting tomorrow to discuss sales to Zambia in southern Africa, and contacts made on the Canary Islands trip could result in the hiring of a sales representative in Mauritania in western Africa.
Her latest White House visit, French said, has her thinking “green.” The color symbolizes money and the ecology, but it also represents naiveté when it comes to climate change.
“We’re not getting the urgency,” she said. “This is urgent, whether it’s the flooding in Houston or the sea level rising in Norfolk.” 
Contact Vic Bradshaw at 574-6279 or