What more dramatic way to expose flaws in the system than to have a great swath of the population without power for an evening or two. The havoc wrought in the transportation system alone was enough to inspire one’s jaw to slacken. Whether rail, road, air or marine, our transportation grid employs various kinds of lighting in order to ensure the safe flow of traffic. When the lights go out the danger level multiplies.
During what must have been, for many, an intoxicatingly dark Toronto evening, someone casually remarked how odd it was not to see the blinking lights on the CN Tower. He was referring to the hazard lighting normally seen on tall structures and other obstacles to navigation. With 3000 hours as a helicopter pilot I can vouch for the fact that these lights are of great comfort when flying in anything less than ideal conditions. Well there is a BC company that has an off-the-grid solution to something that we usually take for granted.
CARMANAH TECHNOLOGIES INC. Trading Symbol – CMH Cdn Venture Exchange
Carmanah Technologies is a Victoria-based designer and manufacturer of solar-powered LEDs (light-emitting diodes). Carmanah’s lights are designed for marking channels and waterways, moored vessels, aquaculture facilities and docks, as well as highlighting hazards and high caution areas on roads and railways. While that may sound a bit somniferous, these are no ordinary blinking lights.
LEDs have been around for many years but they’ve come a long way since the days where their most common application was to light the face of your watch. Advancing technology means that every 1 ½ years the cost of LEDs is halved, while their power doubles. As such, they have become extremely energy-efficient, using 90% less energy than a normal light bulb and lasting on average five times longer. In fact, it is possible for a single diode consuming 1/10th of a watt of electricity to produce sufficient light to read by.
What Carmanah has done is to combine LEDs with solar collection hardware and power management software in a single self-contained system. Their lights are designed to function for five years with no maintenance in remote locations and extreme conditions. Carmanah has developed proprietary solutions relating to the domed shape of their solar collectors and in the software that manages the output of the LEDs relative to ambient light conditions. This kind of intellectual capital gives Carmanah what they feel is a clear edge on their competition.
Building on their success with solar-powered LEDs, Carmanah has developed the “iStop” and “iShelter” solar-powered transit shelters. Next time you are down in Victoria you can visit this technology at the Oak Bay Village bus stop. Systems have been sold to the transit authorities in Atlanta, Georgia, and London, England, and in the future Carmanah hopes that the iShelter will contribute significantly to their revenue.
Carmanah’s 2002 sales amounted to $6.5 million, and according to company CEO Art Aylesworth, Carmanah expects to hit $25 million in sales within 3 years. With Carmanah’s business spreading across many sectors, and having the widest possible geographic application, the board at Carmanah may be wondering whether they have low-balled those revenue estimates. Indeed one of the challenges for the company is how to manage their growth in a prudent manner. Currently, Carmanah employs 52 people in their 20,000 sq. ft. production facility in Victoria, but this plant will soon prove inadequate as growth continues.
Carmanah recently broke out of their 52-week trading range of $0.80 to $1.00 and closed on Aug 25, 2003, at $1.11. In fact since the ‘day the lights went out’ Carmanah is up 20% on about triple it’s normal trading volume. One might wonder whether this price rise is just an understandable emotional bounce given the power outage last month or whether the recent rally truly has legs. Well it’s encouraging to note that Carmanah actually managed a small profit last year, and the analyst community sees them earning anywhere from 6 to 9 cents a share in 2004. So you’ve got to admit that looks somewhat more appealing than investing in some far-flung technomedia conglomerate that is hemorrhaging money at an alarming rate and employing teams of forensic accountants to unravel the books.
If you’d like to find out more about Carmanah I’d suggest you start by visiting their website at www.carmanah.com and explore the link for investors. Here you can look through the company’s most recent quarterly and annual financial reports, chart the price of Carmanah, see what the media says about them, and more. Of course if you have a broker, ask him or her for some advice. For investors searching for a way to achieve economic, social and environmental gains, it may not be necessary to look too far from home.