The Business of Solar: One Maker’s Revolution

By Deanna Geneva Lorianni

When Richmond transplant Bert Green envisions the near future, he sees a world where harnessing the sun for energy is the norm. Where machines once reliant on coal and oil run solely with solar. Where we’re, in essence, going back to our civilization roots, relying on nature to help us create.

For the past three-and-a-half years, Green has dedicated his entire career to this vision. And SolarMill is his answer.

At its core, SolarMill is a Henrico County manufacturing company that’s powered completely by solar energy. And so far, it’s been producing (and selling) high-quality consumer products using 100 percent solar manufacturing. That latter detail matters, Green points out, because he finds that many companies touting “green energy” today simply buy credits to offset energy produced by fossil fuels. A step in the right direction, he says, but not a full commitment to renewable energy. Many firms have the means during production inspection (dupro) to push for a more green option, but it varies by country and region about how far this goes.

According to Green, SolarMill is the only manufacturing company on the market powered 100 percent by solar. And he built his one-of-a-kind machine, which even captures and retains solar energy for use during intermittent sun, from scratch. That machine is currently valued at around $30,000.

“What we’re doing is taking popular manufacturing equipment and converting it to solar,” Green explains. “I’m really interested in the research side of things, and our focus is on how a product is made, not necessarily the product someone’s making. For those people who want to Learn More about solar energy, it might be useful to check out websites like There is so much information on renewable energy out there, so take the time to learn about it.”

SolarMill’s products exist mostly to showcase his company’s manufacturing capabilities. Today, SolarMill makes and sells bamboo cutting boards wrapped with seeded paper, a cork/Richlight cutting board, and Richlight coasters (Richlight is an eco-friendly, paper-based composite material). And while Green is proud to offer “off the grid” products, his real passion lies in all the ways to revolutionize manufacturing using only solar.

At Green’s core, he’s a visionary and inventor with a drive to innovate while doing good for the world around him. A maker at heart, he’s deeply connected with RVA’s local maker movement as a founding member and board member of the RVA Makers Group. He’s also involved with the popular RVA MakerFest.

When Green looks five years down the road, he envisions SolarMill expanding into a flagship manufacturing space that’s the epitome of sustainability and efficiency – complete with research laboratories, engineers, craftsmen, and, yes, even robots. And his facility is able to support home decor, housewares, furniture, fashion, and more. “Anything you can make, you can make with solar power,” he says. Additionally, with the help of modern technologies like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), it could be possible for Green and similar growing entrepreneurs to simplify data processing and streamline internal processes required for operating solar plants. For that, it could be necessary to be armed with the appropriate knowledge of SYTE Consulting Group and its like. With the expertise of the above-mentioned organization, industrialists could align people and processes so that the right technology can support the growth of the manufacturing business. It is essential to remember that a proper strategy and a carefully chosen ERP solution can bear fruitful results for any manufacturing business.

Moreover, ten years ahead, Green sees SolarMill transitioning into an organization helping other manufacturing companies commit to going completely solar. His mission is to have the manufacturing industry doing exactly what he’s doing today. And while that may mean his company – and niche – become less unique over time, Green hardly bats an eye.

“Ten years from now, if we’re the only company doing what we’re doing, then we failed,” he proclaims.

But failure’s probably far away.

His newest invention is a revolutionary metal casting project completely using solar power, for which he’s launching a Kickstarter in March. And based on the sneak peek, Green’s vision to transform manufacturing right here in RVA is not just a vision – it’s a reality. And his time is now.

CategoriesGeneral, Innovators, Startups, Work

Publisher and Editor in Chief of Richmond Grid magazine, a conscious lifestyle publication designed to celebrate how the region works, lives and plays. Richmond Grid magazine is a B-Certified business that uses a community-based, solution-oriented approach to shift the region for good.