Designed for the Battlefield …Indispensable on the Construction Site

Power on Demand

Douglas Elbinger |

There is a unique Michigan company that can put electrical power wherever and whenever you need it. In any season, terrain, or weather.  Remember back in 2011, when the US Military was facing an energy dilemma in Afghanistan?

…as reported by CBS News in December 2011,

“To keep American and allied bases powered up in Afghanistan while avoiding the perils of hauling in fuel via ground transportation is costing the military big time. Frosty relations between the U.S. and Pakistan - which led to Pakistan closing its border to Afghanistan-bound truck traffic- haven't helped, either.  The Pentagon is increasingly relying on parachute drops of fuel and other supplies to bases in remote parts of Afghanistan, and as Nathan Hodge of the Wall Street Journal reports, the military estimates such deliveries are spiking the ultimate price of a gallon of fuel to as much as $500 per gallon”.

 ‘The ZeroBase” To the Rescue

The orders from the Pentagon came down as follows;

Design a power generation system that will be sustainable when power from the grid or fossil fuels are impractical or impossible. Build in relentless reliability with ‘power surety and operational continuity’ for critical assets.  Mitigate or eliminate the cost, logistical support, and risk associated with fossil fuel supply. Provide power supply where noise, heat, emissions, or fuel storage are constrained (they mean avoid enemy detection).  And the end equation should show a lower total cost of ownership by reducing fuel, maintenance, and operational costs. Oh! And we need this yesterday.

Cut to the chase. The US armed forces was very pleased with what The ZeroBase delivered and has recently cut the ribbon on its new headquarters in Ferndale, Michigan, a move that is helping accommodate the alternative energy start-up's rapid growth.

As you can tell from the above introduction, The ZeroBase, formerly ZeroBase Energy, makes solar-powered off-grid systems designed to be used in remote areas. The power systems can be configured to provide output for varying power loads. As a consequence of its successful engineering and development, the 4-year-old company landed a large contract with the U.S. Army, which allowed it to scale up production in earnest.

T-Series Solar Generator on Display at the ZeroBase open house in August 2013

Since then, the company has expanded its team from three to 14 employees and three interns (nearly a platoon) to meet the demand for its products. That growth prompted the company to move from its 500 square feet of space in TechTown to 3,000 square feet in Ferndale.

"We really didn't start out with a lot of space," says Michelle Klassen, power product sales director for The ZeroBase. "We were piled on top of each other." The new space in Ferndale gives the The ZeroBase team some elbow room to continue its work for products that will transition from military into mainstream consumer use.
“Our new headquarters, which includes office and lab space, will help accelerate the time to develop a successful prototypes to half a year or less. Plus, the new space will provide close proximity to local companies and organizations that might be interested in doing business with us. We choose the new location mainly about community development," continues Ms. Klassen. "We want to be in a location where we can reach out to local businesses."

More than anything else, this is a story about the ‘diffusion of innovation’, or how military technology is being adopted for civilian and commercial use. On being introduced to Mr. Jaron Rothkop, The ZeroBase President and Chief Technology Officer, I ask point blank, “Now that you have proven this on the battlefield …where’s your next conquest”.  He took the bait.

“…very broadly speaking, anywhere in the world.  Specifically, lets just start with any where there is a construction site or telecommunication tower. Anywhere that fossil fuel is expensive, difficult to deliver, anywhere the cost and risk of running out of power is very critical”. I was thinking more about a remote fishing camp or cabin up north.

Mr Rothkop proudly explains, “more recently our power generators have been field tested in remote areas for oil and gas exploration. In desert or arctic conditions they perform with outstanding reliability, so there is no doubt they will be just fine in the Michigan climate.

“If they can power a forward army post they will work for a construction trailer”, adds Jaron.

Typical uses for The ZeroBase power system include charging and running power tools, computers, lighting, security, especially trying to secure a large perimeter.  Any type of remote monitoring equipment that requires UPS for continuous signal broadcasts. Any place where a diesel or gas generator is running …The ZeroBase will be practical and can make a difference in power reliability, availability, and cost.

I won’t go into the technical specification about the ZB units in this space because you can find all that on their website.

I do want to mention that Jarod Rothkop was quick to point out that every ZB product is assembled in Michigan and all system components including the solar panels are made in US.

So my last question is how do I get one of the generators?

Jaron suggests we just contact the office in Ferndale for a demonstration. The ZB units will be available through direct sales and distributors. They expect to offer leasing programs and make them available for rent.

See this for yourself. Contact Ms. Michelle Klassen, for more information or a demonstration.

The ZeroBase, LLC; 160 Vester Street, Ferndale, Michigan, 48220 Phone 888-530-9376 or email:

About the Author

Douglas Elbinger, is Energy Policy Analyst, for,  a renewable energy engineering and consulting firm in Detroit.  Doug’s career spans over 35 years as an innovator in corporate communications. His in-depth knowledge of technical achievements and investment strategy in the renewable energy industry keep Doug in front of ever changing opportunities.

For more information, comments, or dialogue, contact Doug at;





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