A conversation with Wayne Baker
In October 2016, MREA talked with Wayne Baker, owner of Baker Light Industries in Alder, Montana, about his background and how all the different renewable energy technologies he works with complement one another.
How did you get into renewable energy?
I took a job out of college down in Colorado working for a company that did automation and instrumentation for dams and waterways. In 1994 I installed my first solar panel charging a battery to monitor the water level in a reservoir. We did several projects like that where we had to build little off-grid power systems. In 1999 I came back to Montana and took a job with a company that specialized in off-grid homes. I worked with them for six years, and then in 2006 I took up wood fired boilers and went out on my own and formed Baker Light Industries.
Tell me more about Baker Light Industries.
I call myself a “renewable energy contractor.” I do solar electric, solar thermal, wood fired boilers, and ground source heat pumps. I do about twenty projects each year. I’m also half owner of a business in Sun Valley, Idaho called Ketchum Energy Company. It’s a venture that I started recently with a friend of mine because we saw an emerging solar market in Sun Valley. I’m actually one of only three people that hold the Idaho Solar Electrical Specialty contractors’ license.
I like working with a variety of renewable energy technologies because they all complement each other. For example, I’ve done a couple of projects called thermal battery systems, where we combine solar thermal and ground-source heat pumps for heating systems. That makes it possible to do a “net zero” home with about a third the number of solar electric panels it would take otherwise. As for wood boilers, I often install them for farmers or ranchers to offset propane. A farmer or rancher will have plenty of downed wood and waste wood and can save a lot of money on propane by installing a wood boiler.
What do you like best about your job?
I like being part of the solution for our energy problems in the world. And I like that my job keeps me doing different things every day. I never get bored.
Why are you supporting MREA as a Penny Per Watt Champion?
I’m supporting MREA to help promote our agenda in the state legislature. Improving renewable energy policy and fending off attacks on it is critical to allow businesses like mine to grow and thrive.