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Plug and Play Summit: Building Energy

Originally posted on Clean Tech Concepts. By: Tom Breunig

If you’re looking for the next wave of energy technology that’s just over the horizon, you don’t have to go much farther than Plug and Play’s Summer Summit, which took place this week. While accelerators are sprouting like spring leaves, the Plug and Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale is one of the venerable grandparents of the industry. And Plug and Play is itself opening new accelerators around the world, from China to Germany.

It also has one of the first energy start-up groups, which accepts a new cohort every quarter, helping the young companies with everything from message crystallization, to presentations, technology and financial connections, customer and partner introductions, and even venture money.

This year’s Summer Summit cohort offered a glimpse of what we can expect to see in the next years as the energy industry narrows and fine tunes its technology in vital sectors from renewables to energy storage, IoT efficiencies, and wastewater treatment. Given that the built environment is responsible for 40% of carbon emissions, there was a strong focus on building-related energy efficiency, air quality, and energy storage. AI and data analytics was clearly a thread throughout the day, reflecting the need to evaluate and adjust building energy use patterns in real time.

The energy/sustainability session opened up with Circuitmeter, a Canadian company focused on making building energy use visible in real time accompanied by analytics that identifies elements of the system that are operating unnecessarily or inefficiently. Not only does it offer the real time energy view, but in contrast to standard industrial meters that cost $2000 per circuit, Circuitmeter’s meters pencil out at a mere $30-60 each. The company is seeking $5M in Series A investment and anticipates $10M in revenue within a year after funding. Not a bad ROI.

If you’re a fan of NEST, you may like Enviosystems, a smart building enabler with universal plug and play capability. Its key benefits reside in the company’s sleek CUBE box — literally a black box — and BASE software with advanced algorithms for real-time information on all aspects of the building’s operation, predictive modeling, remote management, and preemptive maintenance alerts.   Importantly, the application is open source and accepts third-party APIs for add-on capability. The company has made significant headway and says it is already overwhelmed with orders including orders from the world’s largest construction company. They expect to hit $100,000 in revenue this year and $1M next year. They are finishing up a $6M Series A round with $1M still available. The funding will help them deliver on orders they already have. You’d better hurry. The company’s table was swamped.

Plug and Play Summit

Enviosystems CEO Reza Alaghehband chats with a large group of interested parties at Plug and Play’s Summer Summit 18.

Continuing on the designer/plug and play theme, you’ll want to take a look at Orison’s website. This start-up has developed what may be the most versatile and aesthetically pleasing energy storage solution for homeowners and businesses. One product, available soon, is a wall-mounted thin battery panel, the size of a large painting, that illuminates your indoor environment with warm LED light — with a choice of 16 million colors. Just hang it up and plug it in. Of course, you can also cover it with a variety of “skins” to fit in with your decor. The configuration is expandable — by adding panels you can increase your energy reliance to a maximum of 13.2 kilowatt-hours per principal device. The other product, a slim, elegant tower, combines energy storage with a high-end bluetooth speaker and more LED lighting. The objective is to help eliminate soft costs to make renewable energy affordable for everyone from homeowners to residential and business renters.

If you’re in an area that suffers from intermittent black-outs, brown-outs, or you’re just remote and off the grid, you may be fed up with the hassle, cost and (not to be overlooked) the noise of the diesel generator you are forced to rely on. This is especially important if you need to power air conditioning to work or study, which is the case in many developing countries. The market is ripe. New Delhi, for example, recently banned diesel generators during the winter months. YouSolar, a Plug and Play accelerator company, has a solution for getting your home or commercial building off the generator. The firm, whose mission is “to wipe diesel off the planet,” has built an end-to-end solar-to-storage system that significantly undercuts the cost and inconvenience of diesel generators. It is plug and play, modular and expandable for any configuration, predicts energy production and usage, and requires no utility company approvals. Additionally, the system can be used where customers have no net metering from their utilities. YouSolar is seeking a pre-Series A round of up to $750K prior to a $5M Series A in the fall, with expected revenues of $1M within the next 12 months.

Australian company Solar Analytics is in the unique position of having 18,000 active systems already deployed. Not bad for a young start-up that has created a monitor that fits inside your meter box to help you track solar system performance, including energy usage, net electricity bought and sold, when and how you are loading your system, and how you could be saving money. Additionally, it sends you diagnostic and maintenance alerts when needed. They use the “Internet of Energy” to provide services and work with more than 400 resellers and 5 utilities. They are seeking $250K t0 $1M and connections to U.S. partners.

A young firm called Qlair played a supporting role at the event. The company is applying to be part of the energy accelerator after completing a quarter in the real estate tech group. They also fit nicely into the built environment theme, offering a sophisticated system that monitors and optimizes indoor air quality for commercial buildings. The problem of air quality has only recently begun to be attacked, with a number of new solutions emerging (see this month’s article on Diatomix). Driven by concerns about mold, allergens, foreign matter, chemical use, off-gassing, and tighter buildings, such firms as Qlair are prepared to take on the challenge of managing air quality. Qlair accomplishes its objective by through software, using AI to analyze sensor data on everything from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to particulate matter like benzine. Its software is agnostic and can incorporate data from any sensor system to create a real time picture of air quality, actionable insights and develop a predictive capability over time. The company is funded by its parent Mann+Hummel, and is focused on acquiring U.S. partners and customers interested in setting up paid pilot programs.

Sustainable energy

The Orison energy storage panel, which also provides warm LED lighting, can be mounted on any wall. While holding less power than the Tesla PowerWall, it requires no electrician to install it. You can even get different “skins” for it to blend with your decor.

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