It’s a one-of-a-kind twist on a high-school summer job that’s kind to the climate.
Two twin brothers in Maine have fully booked out the calendar for their lawn care business, which uses 100% electric equipment charged with solar energy.
"We’d actually never mowed our own lawn," said Dimitri Coupe during a Tuesday interview with NECN and NBC10 Boston, explaining that they were completely new to cutting the grass when they started their business, called Solar Mow.
Two years after an initial investment from their father, Phil Coupe, who also co-founded a solar energy company, Dimitri and his brother Philip have paid back Phil’s initial $6,000 that bought a few pieces of fundamental electric yard care equipment like mowers. They've also paid back a second loan for $24,000, which covered a behemoth electric riding mower that can run for six to seven hours in a single charge.
Now that the boys have overcome the "trial and error" of what type of power outlet can best charge their gear as well as an end to "limping" through yards before the more beefy mower’s arrival, they have a full roster of more than 30 customers for the summer, each paying an average of $50 per cut to get their grass manicured and clover clipped.
"We got our 220 volt installed, which has worked great so far," explained Dimitri, noting that their family’s home has had solar panels for years and some existing infrastructure to charge cars and other items, allowing the lawn care machines to be charged entirely with renewable energy.
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"There’s actually a wide variety of responses, but they’re all positive, everybody’s excited," said Philip, adding that not everyone who calls the brothers is aware of the climate-conscious nature of their work.
The boys credit their father with the initial idea to avoid fossil fuels.
"Our friends were getting jobs, we needed jobs, our dad, the first thing that popped into his mind was 'why don’t you start a lawn care business like I did? We can put a twist on it.. making it electric,'" recalled Dimitri.
Asked over e-mail if this idea might be viable for others less familiar with solar energy, Phil Coupe replied:
"As people move away from burning fossil fuels, there are so many opportunities to improve the way we do things. Does anyone enjoy spilling gas, changing sparkplugs, cleaning air filters or changing the oil on their lawnmower? Heck no, and the beautiful thing is that electric lawnmowers and trimmers have none of those headaches, plus no pollution and much less noise. That's why more than 60% of lawn equipment today is electric, and this clean share of the market is increasing rapidly. Oh, and gas is more expensive than electricity on a per unit cost of energy, even more so if you charge your lawn equipment with solar electricity. We think Solar Mow and the growing adoption of clean technology proves that anyone can make the change and reap the benefits."
Coupe added that the biggest challenge in launching Solar Mow ”is keeping up with constantly growing demand, which is a pretty nice problem to have. That, and dad having to mow the occasional lawn that is not his own."
As for what’s next for Solar Mow, the boys say they plan on one more summer of mowing in 2023 and then making a business decision on whether to sell or keep going.
In the present, they are working on overcoming one minor part of their operation that involves fossil fuel – occasionally using a gasoline-powered truck to move mowers around.
However, a workaround for that is already being applied.
"Recently, we’ve been pulling it behind a Ford Escape, which has up to 50 miles of electric run time," said Philip.