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Bucolic Carson Valley is the last place you might expect to find the latest in cutting-edge manufacturing technology.
Photo: Shannon Litz; Joyce Hollister (below)
Bucolic Carson Valley is the last place you might expect to find the latest in green fuels and cutting-edge manufacturing technology. These three Minden businesses will make you think otherwise.
GASSING UP WITHOUT THE GUILT
Motorists can fill their tanks with alternative fuels at the Bently Biofuels Outpost Retail Station 24 hours a day. The station regularly pumps three blends of biodiesel and two blends of ethanol. Nearly any car on the road can operate on at least one of the competitively priced blends, says founder Don Bently.
The Outpost’s biodiesel begins life as used cooking oil purchased from Northern Nevada restaurants. About 10,000 gallons of pure biodiesel are produced weekly at Bently’s nearby plant.
The oil, which smells vaguely of French fries, is combined with ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel in varying percentages to produce the blends sold at the retail station. “It’s a simple chemical process,” Bently says. The station’s ethanol fuel is a mixture of unleaded gasoline and bioethanol that is purchased in California.
The filling station itself is “green.” Solar panels provide heat, and high-efficiency lighting fixtures illuminate the fuel plaza. Constructed of sustainable materials, the station is in the process of becoming gold-certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. The convenience store sells organic snacks and is open mornings to evenings. Recycling bins accept plastic, tin, aluminum, and glass.
Surfers looking for durability and high performance might want to invest in an Aviso American Made surfboard. Owner John Omohundro is the third generation of his family to manufacture leading-edge products—such as nose cones for jets and masts for racing yachts—with composite resins and carbon fibers.
Aviso’s surfboards are hollow. Riding a wave, the carbon-fiber board flexes, storing and then releasing kinetic energy. This allows the rider to accelerate rather than decelerate through turns, an advantage over conventional surfboards.
Traditionally built foam, wood, and fiberglass surfboards give up within a few months, but Aviso boards can last for years. “I’ve taken my board all over the world, from New Zealand to Fiji to Mexico,” Omohundro says.
Light weight is another advantage of the carbon-fiber and hollow construction—even the smallest surfer can carry an 8-pound, 9-foot Aviso board up a hill. Top surfboard shapers, among them Cole Simler and Jeff “Doc” Lausch, design the boards, which are available in 83 styles and range from 5 to 10.6 feet. Surfers can choose from 10 colors—but many think Aviso black is the coolest.
SET YOUR SAILS TO THE NORTH
Racing yachts crisscross the ocean thanks to North Sails, the world’s largest sailmaker, which has 63 major manufacturing facilities, also known as lofts, worldwide. The North Sails Nevada loft in Minden specializes in custom-designed sails for America’s Cup and other seagoing competitors who use the company’s proprietary 3DL technology.
Crews in the Volvo Ocean Race must plan in advance how many sails they will need, as they frequently sail thousands of miles away from land. “We build all the sails for those boats,” says J. Brandon, quality assurance and training manager for North Sails Nevada. “Sails are a custom product, and a number of factors go into the design.”
Shaped like a triangular airfoil, the 3DL (the “L” is for laminate) sail is a durable sandwich of plastic film, tough synthetic yarns, such as lightweight carbon fibers, and adhesives. Built on an adjustable 3DL mold, the layers are compressed, then bonded with heat. Computer software guides the entire process. Workers are suspended from moveable gantries as they inspect every step.
Renowned sail designers create each sail on a computer. They take into account where and under what conditions the sails will be used and test the designs in virtual wind tunnels. The sails for a 90-foot trimaran with a 158-foot mast are now in production. The vessel’s owners hope to claim victory in the next America’s Cup race.