Small Business and Business Software

Solar Energy For Small Business

Solar Energy For Small Business – It’s one of those incubators that focuses on solar companies – but Powerhouse is part of a larger movement to grow new companies into a low-carbon future.

As solar energy becomes cheaper, it is attracting investment around the world, as evidenced by the $116 billion that poured into solar projects, companies and technologies in 2016. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

Solar Energy For Small Business

Solar Energy For Small Business

It started with a crowdfunding startup, an investment from Prince, and an idea to help new solar companies tackle business challenges that would be difficult to overcome alone.

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Now, four years later, the idea has evolved into a group called Powerhouse, and especially, in a world full of technological applications, it is one of the business incubators focused on starting and growing solar companies.

Powerhouse runs an accelerator and incubator program. Accelerators typically provide small capital, free or low-cost office space, and networking opportunities with investors and customers to small companies developing their early technology. and business plans. Since its launch in 2013, Powerhouse has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in 15 startups, and this summer it plans to welcome a few solar entrepreneurs to the program.

Group Incubators leases office space to the most established solar energy startups across 15,000 square feet, three floors in downtown Oakland, California. Accelerator entrepreneurs sometimes receive degrees from companies that are paid rent in the area they work with. Powerhouse now hosts about 15 companies and about 100 people across both categories.

Its purpose is simple. The organization wants to play a unique role in promoting a new wave of new technologies in the solar energy market. Many Powerhouse companies use software, data, and the Web to make it easy to sell or design solar power systems. They rely on advice and networking opportunities through Powerhouse to raise money, find customers, or exit – through an initial public offering or acquisition.

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“Powerhouse gave us a lot of credibility and credibility at the beginning, when we didn’t have much to show. It was enough to make people believe in us,” says Elena Lucas, founder- co-CEO of UtilityAPI, e. initializing power data.

The earlier wave of solar startups was dominated by companies experimenting with different materials and designs for solar cells and panels. Many of these solar-focused projects failed to achieve the required technical performance despite heavy investment from Gulf investors.

As the prices of solar panels have dropped significantly in recent years, a new generation of entrepreneurs and start-ups are starting to solve other intractable problems, such as shortening the time it takes to get approvals or respect the idea of ​​selling to the owners. It’s as if fast Internet connections are finally becoming cheap and ubiquitous enough to attract entrepreneurial minds to build new websites and services on them.

Solar Energy For Small Business

Tough challenges still lie ahead to start the day. Large utilities and energy companies, be they investors or customers, generally do not have experience working with small renewable energy companies. Meanwhile, US government funding for energy innovation is limited, especially with federal budget cuts that come with a lack of clean energy support from the White House.

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But as solar energy comes down in cost, it’s attracting public and private investment around the world, evidenced by the $116 billion that went into solar projects, companies and technologies in 2016, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“Powerhouse’s core mission is to make solar energy the most accessible form of energy in the world,” says Emily Kirsch, co-founder of Powerhouse.

Despite the rise and success of Silicon Valley technology accelerators such as Y Combinator and Techstars, no one else has tried to do the same thing that is only intended for the solar industry: “We are still here.” The group model is showing some success, at least on a small scale, although it is still in its infancy.

Powerhouse takes a small portion of the stock in their accelerator companies and makes money if they are acquired or go public. Powerhouse currently gets most of its investment money from a combination of grants, corporate sponsors like SolarCity and SunPower, and office space lease fees. He is thinking of raising money from angel investors so that he can make large investments in many companies.

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None of the companies in its portfolio have gone public or been bought, but some have attracted funding since going through the accelerator program and have increased the value of the companies in the process. Kirsch says startups in the accelerator program have seen their value increase 40 times.

Four of the startups have been found in its incubator program so far, Kirsch says, although the company does not participate in it. But their exit helps build the Powerhouse’s reputation among entrepreneurs and investors.

Kirsch has been involved since day one. Years ago, when Kirsch was working with Van Jones, an environmental and civil rights activist who briefly served as a green jobs adviser to former President Obama, he asked him if he would be interested in to help a new startup called Solar Mosaic, provide funding to install solar panels on rooftops and pilot a solar energy program in Auckland. Meanwhile, Jones’ friend, Prince, wanted to invest a quarter of a million dollars in solar energy projects in Oakland, and ended up financing Solar Mosaic’s first four buildings.

Solar Energy For Small Business

Building on that experience – coordinating the start of the day with colleagues from the capital – Kirsh and Danny Kennedy, a former Greenpeace campaign manager who founded the company which installs solar energy Sunjevity, started the company to try to see if this model can work with several solar youth. power plants. comp. They changed the name of their company, SFunCube, to Powerhouse two years ago.

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On a visit earlier this year to the Powerhouse headquarters, many entrepreneurs came down to work on their products and meet potential partners at the weekly open house event. Powerhouse Group is connected to UtilityAPI and its first investor, Better Ventures, as well as a consultant, Jon Wellinghoff, who is the former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. After going through an accelerator program, UtilityAPI, which creates software to collect data on building energy use and deliver it to customers, such as solar or energy storage devices, has grown to founder- together nine. He now has an office space on the sixth floor of the Powerhouse after using shared offices before.

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Lucas said the co-working space was a “brain dump” because all the entrepreneurs brought different kinds of experiences to them. This allowed him to get quick answers on energy policy or technical standards.

Another student of the accelerator, BrightCurrent, which works with major retailers and companies to market solar and install solar systems, now employs 120 people and was profitable last year, it said. John Bourne, co-founder and CEO of the five-year-old company. Bourne says Powerhouse has helped his company connect with investors (like Better Ventures) and customers and improve its sales pitch. During the acceleration program, Born met with Kirsch or Kennedy once a week to learn about BrightCurrent’s projects and brainstorm ways to overcome obstacles.

“It can be isolating, lonely and difficult to be an entrepreneur,” says Bourne. When he joined, Powerhouse was working in Sungevity’s offices and says, “It was a great environment, it’s warm, and I find people who care about what I care about. That was a big win for me.”

Solar For Small Business

Solar Mosaic co-founder and CEO Billy Parish says his company — now six years old and employing more than 150 people — has partnered with at least three powerhouse startups on projects, in including UtilityAPI, Sunible and BrightCurrent.

“Powerhouse is one of the hubs of the solar ecosystem and they help bring disruptive ideas to the industry. Being close to them keeps us connected to these new ideas and entrepreneurs,” Parrish says.

In overall numbers, the Powerhouse is still very young. Its companies have contributed to the installation of 242 megawatts of solar energy, employed 386 people, and generated revenues of $52 million. This is perhaps the group’s biggest drawback – it has and borderline, it has very limited feedback and still works on a small scale.

Solar Energy For Small Business

But it is part of a larger movement to invest in and support new low-carbon companies. Other companies running energy-related accelerator programs include Cyclotron Road, which has partnered with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Otherlab in San Francisco’s Mission District. Last year, Bill Gates and a group of investors launched Breakthrough Energy Ventures to invest $1 billion in early energy development.

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Powerhouse co-founder Danny Kennedy, who now leads the California Clean Energy Fund, explains the importance of projects like Powerhouse and the California Clean Energy Fund: “We need early energy investment programs more than ever. and ever before to help the transition of power. critics.” . Too long to read? Enter your email to download this article as a PDF. We’ll also send you our best business tips every week in our newsletter. You

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