Access to reliable power is a critical concern for hundreds of millions of people worldwide, from those living in remote communities without public utilities to entire regions susceptible to severe weather and natural disasters.
Since his graduation in 2016, Princeton alumnus Angelo Campus has worked to ensure anyone needing quick and dependable access to a power source can find it in a simple configuration: a shipping container equipped with solar panels, a battery for energy storage and a backup generator.
His company, BoxPower, builds and distributes these units — what are known as containerized microgrids — and has deployed them in places like Puerto Rico, which lost electrical infrastructure in 2017 due to Hurricane Maria, and the Alaskan backcountry, where Alaska Natives live far removed from electrical power sources.
BoxPower even filled a critical need in Campus’ home state of California in 2019, when wildfires caused public utilities to shut down electrical grids for days.
“When we started this company, we didn’t know that Hurricane Maria was going to happen, we didn’t know that the California wildfires were going to happen,” said Campus, whose company is based in his hometown of Nevada City, California.
He also couldn’t foresee that a game-changing technological development was on the horizon: that Tesla would revolutionize the battery and energy storage market — a key component of solar energy systems — popularizing the idea of microgrids.
What Campus did know early on was that he had a passion for renewable energy, engineering and product design, and a strong desire to promote social and environmental good.
He learned about containerized microgrids in 2011 as a senior in high school, when he visited Princeton for a campus tour. The visit strongly influenced his decision to attend the University and to learn more about the technology involved.
As a first-year student, he joined Princeton’s Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) program, which was developing a sustainable alternative to diesel generators in the wake of the 2010 earthquakes in Haiti and their devastating aftermath.
To focus his academics on his goals, Campus switched out of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering to create an independent concentration called “Technological Development” that allowed him to fully realize the practical applications of containerized microgrids. He took on advisers from engineering, architecture and anthropology to help him more closely examine the technical, human and social aspects of energy systems.
During his senior year, Campus entered business competitions and began the process of commercializing a rapidly deployable, containerized microgrid. He named his new company BoxPower.
“It’s become very important to me to try to extend that opportunity and share my story with other rising Princeton students that with a Princeton degree, you can do anything,” he said. “You can start your own company, you can create your own career and create your own lifestyle into whatever vision you want for yourself and the world.”
“As Princeton alumni, we are among some of the most privileged people in the world,” he added. “It is our responsibility, our duty, to use that privilege to make the world a better place.”
Campus eventually plans to take BoxPower global. He is seeking to partner with traditional power providers that want to expand into renewable energy. He’s also hoping to work with international relief groups including the United Nations, the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders.
“In so many ways we’re just getting started,” Campus said. “We’re in our early teenage years where we’re learning how to drive. We’re figuring out all the places we can and want to go, and it’s a really exciting time to be doing that.”