Jacksonville residents driving past the Westside campus of industrial offices that house Alternate Energy Technologies LLC probably don't notice that one of the world's leading manufacturers of thermal solar collectors is there, quietly making panels for myriad international vendors.
"We're not a walk-in business," said Billy Byrom, company founder, president and managing partner. "We're strictly a manufacturer for wholesale distributors. We lead a lot of tours, though - we want people to see what we do."
The company does not purchase anything from foreign suppliers, Byrom says. Its 60 workers bring in raw materials and manufacture everything in its 67,000-square-foot facility. Byrom said that makes AET one-of-a-kind in the United States, because other U.S. solar manufacturers are really just assembly operations that put together components fabricated in foreign factories.
"Everything is American-made. We're very proud of that," he said. "We are the only complete manufacturer in the United States."
AET has been leasing space at that location since 1987 when it started with 18,000 square feet, he said. But with the return of a federal tax credit for consumers in 2006, business has been booming.
The growing company will move to a new facility in Green Cove Springs in May.
Byrom, 63, went to work for AET predecessor U.S. Solar in 1979 as the company's director of operations. Prior to that, he worked with an Alabama company that manufactured mobile homes. He was educated at the University of North Alabama in Florence, Ala. and moved to Jacksonville to work with a friend in the solar industry, he said.Alternate Energy Technologies: A success story in Jacksonville