Date: May 19, 2014 Author: Pat Maio Source: Orange County Register (
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Brian Rotty, an engineering manager with Long Beach-based Exergy Controls, had just arrived home from his job and was sitting down to eat dinner with his wife one early evening in December 2012.
He was interrupted by a telephone call from a facilities manager at Cal State Fullerton who wanted Rotty to turn on all of the campus' 500 outdoor lighting fixtures to full brightness -- quickly. Some were dim, others off. Police needed the campus to be lit up as if it were daytime.
They were searching for jewel thieves who had made an armed heist at a Moreno Valley pawn shop. The campus had been put on lockdown after police chased some of the robbers to Fullerton.
Rotty got up from the dinner table in Long Beach and went over to his desktop computer, where he was already logged in to his company's proprietary software system. He flipped the switches for the light fixtures, all of which were connected via wireless control devices.
"The darkness made it handy for them to hide in bushes or in trees," Rotty said of the robbery suspects. "We brought up all of the lights to full brightness. I can't say the lights contributed to their catch, but it didn't hurt."
The example is a telling story about what Exergy Controls does.
Exergy Controls has nearly 1,800 exterior lights installed on wireless controls at Cal State San Bernardino and at least a half-dozen other universities and hospitals in Southern California, including Westerly School in Long Beach and the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music at Cal State Long Beach. The company also is working on a deal to take its technology to Chicago to light up Millennium Park. It will start with 200 lights there, then work up to 5,000.
Retrofitting -- including new LED lights and wireless controls -- can cost as much as $500 per outdoor pole but save as much as 50 percent on energy costs. Exergy supplies only the controls, not the LED lights.
Exergy retrofits old lighting systems with new energy-saving devices that allow users to remotely control the electrical output, which conserves a tremendous amount of energy, said Myles Baker, a former aerospace engineer who co-founded the company with Jim Haas, a veteran in the energy and lighting sector.
They formed their company after a chance meeting at a Christmas party in 2008 where Haas was complaining to Baker about the need to control lights wirelessly.
No sweat for Baker. He jumped at the chance to come up with the proprietary device. After all, he once worked with the old Douglas Aircraft Co., before it was acquired by Boeing Co. in 1997, in its secret Phantom Works division that designed commercial and military jets.
"Efficiency lamps are good, but you also need controls," Baker said.
In 2001, a few years before he first talked with Haas, Baker started an incubator company called M4 Engineering LLC. Last year, he sold one of the firm's first spinoff companies, Modular Wind Energy, which makes wind turbine blades.
Exergy could see 20-30 percent growth this year, said Baker, who said recent state laws and regulations on energy efficiency are fueling the company's growth.
"Our customers' problems are our problems. We want to help solve them," Haas said.
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