Abouelata advocates for Tennessee to be nation’s energy leader
By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
In a recent interview with teknovation.biz, the President of ARiES advocated for a tagline that simply says “Tennessee . . . Where Energy Begins.” ARiES stands for Alternative, Renewable, Innovative, Economic, Solutions for Energy, a company that Abouelata founded about a year ago with two partners – Mary Shaffer Gill and Patrick West.
His work for the last several years in a variety of energy sectors provides a good perspective on why he believes the tagline makes sense. For Abouelata, it’s an easy sell.
“If you want to be in the theater, you go to Broadway. If you want to be in finance, you go to Wall Street. If you want to be in energy, you come here.”
Abouelata cites the state’s assets that many know – Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Electric Power Research Institute, Sharp Electronics Corporation, Wacker Chemie, and Hemlock Semiconductor.
To paraphrase a frequently heard quote, “Many people talk about alternative and renewable energy, but few do something about it.” That’s not the case with Abouelata.
The Rochester Institute of Technology graduate says that he has a background in marketing and accounting, where he developed a “true love of business plans” while performing due diligence on acquisitions for a previous employer. Abouelata later worked as a TVA contractor on the Green Power Switch program where he became passionate about energy.
The two interests – business plans and alternative and renewable energy – are combined with grants writing in the business strategy for ARiES as it delivers turnkey, clean, and renewable energy solutions to its clients. The company focuses on solar photovoltaics, solar thermal, geothermal, and a waste-to-energy technology capable of using biomass and/or waste to generate power.
“We’re energy contractors, reinventing ourselves every three months, adapting to rapidly changing policies, regulations, grants and incentives, keeping our customer base current” Abouelata says, explaining that venture capitalists cannot change that quickly. ARiES energy provides cradle to grave service including energy plans, grant writing, installation and design for biomass to energy, waste-to-energy and solar PV systems.
Abouelata cites a recent clean energy grant solicitation from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation where 350 applications were submitted for $2.25 million.
“Seventeen awards were made, and ARiES was involved in three of them,” he proudly notes. “We’re very good at preparing grant applications, but more importantly we have very good projects.”
The three were $250,000 to Sevier County Solid Waste to Energy project, $100,000 to Lenoir City Utilities Board, and $26,500 to the DeBord Family Partnership in Morristown for a solar system installation.
“We were the first (company) to complete a project under the new grant program,” Abouelata said, citing the DeBord work.
ARiES was founded in November 2011, although many of the team members have worked together for the last four years. They include Gill, Vice President who focuses on business development; West, Chief Financial Officer; Brandt Womack, Project Manager; and Stefan Partin, Account Executive.
Abouelata says the company is self-funded and describes the biggest challenges in its first year as building a pipeline and managing the scheduling challenges of peaks and valleys.
“We have the best customers in the world,” he says, adding that ARiES also enjoys strong support from people like Sam Hart of the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce and Ted Wampler, Jr. of Wampler’s Farm Sausage.
ARiES Energy is currently working with Proton Power to complete a utility scale biomass to energy system for Wampler’s. The new tagline says it all – “Wampler’s Farm Sausage established in 1937, Energy Independent in 2012”!
As it approaches its first-year anniversary, ARiES is expanding into Indiana and exploring a later expansion into North Carolina. He describes the Hoosier State as “fiercely independent and they just get it.”