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Solar generators produced in Sioux Falls have been used to power hospitals in Africa.
Solar generators produced in Sioux Falls have been used to power hospitals in Africa.

Off the Grid

Brian Gramm was tailgating at a University of South Dakota football game in 2011, but instead of focusing on burgers and brats his noisy generator got all the attention. Gramm, a USD graduate and entrepreneur, thought there had to be a way to create a generator that harnessed solar power to produce electricity. He and fellow entrepreneur Daren Davoux designed a prototype and presented it to a group of investors. They all agreed it would work for tailgating, but they said there’s an even greater need for power in poorer countries.

He went back to the drawing board and produced the Forty2 solar generator. The device opens like a suitcase and collects solar energy that charges from one to eight lithium ion batteries. It includes foreign and domestic electrical outlets and can power anything from a cell phone to a small refrigerator.

Gramm founded Peppermint Energy in Sioux Falls to produce the Forty2, which has been used in disaster relief in the Philippines and at the Koidu Hospital in Sierra Leone, where refrigerators powered by Forty2s stored vaccines to combat the Ebola virus.

Variations of the Forty2 generator range from $2,300 to $3,700. The company has also produced smaller generators and battery packs that can be taken on hikes to recharge cell phones and other small devices.

Editor’s Note: This story is revised from the March/April 2016 issue of South Dakota Magazine. To order a copy or to subscribe, call (800) 456-5117.

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