It’s easy to look at the various shortages, crises, and rising tides of the world and to feel overwhelmed–– from pollution and fuel shortages to power outages and global warming, many people find the very idea of trying to solve all of these challenges to be far too much for one human being or one small company to possibly achieve. And yet, at the unassuming Enexor headquarters sitting about an hour south of Nashville Tennessee, that is almost exactly what’s happening.
The company’s Founder and CEO, Lee Jestings, first got the idea for Enexor’s bioenergy system while visiting a Mexico beach and seeing excess seaweed piling up along the coast. He recalls imagining if there could be a way to convert that surplus of organic matter into energy. “And I started looking at waste differently,” he recalls. “I look at it as a feedstock.”
Waste and pollution are everywhere around the world. More and more gets generated every day by people, businesses, and even by nature itself… and getting rid of all that waste is an expensive process, which is often done poorly–– if it’s done at all. Sometimes, the waste isn’t even really removed or recycled: it’s just shuffled around to predetermined dumping locations, rather than utilized in any beneficial or profitable way.
“If we could redirect that waste and generate clean energy onsite,” Lee asserts. “It could help solve the world’s organic and plastic waste problem.”
His eventual response was the founding of Enexor: an organization formed around the simple, yet profound Native American Proverb: “We do not inherit the land from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children.”
And thus began the long grueling process of developing the Bio-CHP system: a bioenergy machine designed to convert the world’s organic and un-recycled waste (such as paper, plastics [including non-recyclable plastics] and food waste) into clean, renewable energy by means of a proprietary, top-secret thermal reaction process.
Enexor’s Director of Operations, Jamie Hartman, intrinsically understood the company’s mission as soon as he was first introduced to the idea. As a military veteran, Jamie’s experience overseas included time spent in countries that were suffering not only from energy poverty, but also severe pollution. “All you notice is trash,” he recalls.
Many families in those countries could only acquire approximately two hours of electricity for their homes per day. “In that two hours you’ve got to cook, maybe turn on the heat for a little while… all these things… Can you imagine managing your family like that?”
The end products of the Bio-CHP’s operation include 75 kilowatts of energy (enough for a small retail building), 120 kW of thermal energy, and a byproduct of non-toxic mineral ash that can be used as fertilizer. Using this system, Enexor aspires to aid in reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, as well as providing much-needed electricity to areas held back by energy poverty.
The concept of burning fuel for warmth or energy is not new to mankind by any stretch of the imagination… but Enexor’s process and technologies certainly are.
And on top of that, a single functional BioEnergy system fits within a single, modular and easily-transportable shipping container. That certainly isn’t par for the course where clean power is concerned. As Jamie points out, renewable energy systems usually have to exist at massive scales in order to be implemented (just think of the broad open fields used to house solar panels, or gigantic windmills). But Enexor’s versatile, one-of-a-kind arrangement is ideally suited for microgrids, which means that their machine can be relocated to wherever waste is piling up, or where energy is sorely needed–– and as Lee can attest, those locations are often one and the same.
Ty Kelley first started as a business analyst two years ago at Enexor, and has since risen to become its Manager for Innovation & Technology. For Ty, working at this company has provided him with a world of experience. “At a startup, you’re expected to wear many different hats,” he admits, and his career with Enexor has already taught him many different aspects of running a manufacturing and engineering business. “I’m really passionate about finding innovative ways to use technology to [modernize] the industrial space.”
And in Enexor’s case, they discovered some particularly innovative ways to upgrade their machinery and fine-tune their process through an obstacle that nobody on their team saw coming.
In the spring of 2020 when Nashville ordered all non-essential businesses to put operations on hold due to the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, that legislation posed a great danger to the company. If Enexor, a small start-up still in the process of gaining traction as a business, were to shut down… they might not open back up again.
“The writing was on the wall,” Jamie recollects. However, the Enexor team was audacious, and believed in their mission. None of them wanted to give up without a fight. All they needed was something to build with their existing facilities and resources, until such a time that they could return to the Bio-CHP in earnest. And fortunately, a single phone call gave them just that. A partner of Enexor asked for their help in sourcing ventilators, and the answer was equal parts committed and daring: “We can make energy from waste; I’m pretty sure we can make a ventilator.”
Within ten weeks of their first time hearing about ventilators, Enexor was producing FDA-approved ventilators to combat the pandemic.
“I had to learn a ton to make the ventilator happen,” Ty recalls. But the process didn’t just benefit the ventilator recipients. The entire Enexor team learned more engineering, electrical, and even teamwork techniques through the ordeal. “Now we’re applying that expertise to the BioEnergy product,” Lee explains. “Every day we [face] hurdles: engineering challenges that seem impossible… but we’re able to overcome.”
That experience through the pandemic, as well as his ongoing career with Enexor, is something that Ty will not be quick to forget.
“Personally, I always thought of manufacturing as an outdated, antiquated type of space,” Ty admits. He’s one of the youngest members of the Enexor team. But companies like Enexor have been shifting his mindset to realize the incredible technological innovations that are actually happening in the industrial world. “My message to the younger generation would be, ‘take away all your preconceived… notions about what industrial and manufacturing is, because it’s right up there with the Googles and the Teslas and the Apples of the world.”
Jamie sees their goals as worth striving for even amidst the bumps and stumbles of life’s unpredictable circumstances. He views their mission as the worthy aspiration of Theodore Roosevelt’s ‘man in the arena.’ The charismatic president is quoted as saying, “It is not the critic who counts… The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena… if he fails, at least [he] fails while daring greatly.”
In the next five to ten years, Lee has only the highest hopes for Enexor and their modular BioEnergy systems. He still has a clear vision for their BioEnergy systems to spread throughout all seven continents, and especially into the areas that need energy and waste solutions the most:
“My industry of the future is providing and distributing an energy solution to solve the world’s waste problem.”