Solar Panels For Small Business – It’s the only incubator that focuses on solar companies – but Powerhouse is on a big journey to develop new businesses into a low-carbon future
As solar energy becomes cheaper, it is attracting investment around the world, as evidenced by the $116 billion that went into solar projects, companies and technologies in 2016. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images
Solar Panels For Small Business
It started as a crowdfunding company, with an investment from Prince, with the idea of helping new solar companies face 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 specifically, in a world connected to tech startups, it’s one of the only incubators out there that focuses on bringing and growing solar companies.
Powerhouse is a fast-paced incubator. Accelerators typically offer low fees, free or low-cost office space, and opportunities to connect with investors and customers for young companies developing early technology and business plans. Since its launch in 2013, Powerhouse has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in 15 startups, and this summer it plans to welcome more solar entrepreneurs into the program.
The incubator group leases 15,000 square feet and three floors of office space to established solar and energy companies in Oakland, California. Sometimes, the hustle of entrepreneurship ends up in a company paying rent in a co-working space. Powerhouse currently hosts about 15 companies and about 100 people in both groups.
Its purpose is simple. This organization wants to play a unique role in developing a new line of technological innovation in the solar market. Many Powerhouse companies use software, data and websites to make selling or designing solar panels cheap and easy. They rely on advice and networking opportunities through Powerhouse to raise funds, acquire clients or exit – through an IPO or acquisition.
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“Powerhouse gave us a lot of confidence and assurance in the beginning, when we didn’t have much to show for it. It was enough to get people to trust us,” said Elena Lucas, co-founder and CEO of UtilityAPI, an energy storage startup.
The previous wave of solar startups was dominated by companies experimenting with different materials and designs for solar cells and panels. Many of these solar-based devices failed to achieve the desired technological success despite significant investment from Bay Area investors.
As the cost of solar has plummeted in recent years, a new generation of entrepreneurs and startups are tackling other pressing issues, such as reducing the time it takes to get approvals or sharpening the sales pitch to homeowners. It’s like when high-speed Internet finally became so cheap and ubiquitous that it attracted entrepreneurs to build new sites and services on top of it.
Big problems still remain for solar startups. Large utilities and energy companies, who may be investors or customers, typically do not have experience working with renewable energy companies. Meanwhile, U.S. government funding for renewable energy is at an all-time low, especially with looming federal budget cuts and a lack of support for clean energy from the White House.
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But solar power is cheap, attracting public and private investment around the world, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, as evidenced by the $116 billion that has gone into solar projects, companies and ‘technology in 2016.
“Powerhouse’s mission is to make solar energy more accessible to the world,” says Powerhouse co-founder Emily Kirsch.
Sitting on a bean bag on the seventh floor of the Powerhouse headquarters, Kirsch says that despite the rise and success of Silicon Valley tech startups like Y Combinator and Techstars, no one has tried to do just that. industry: “We’re a long way off.” The team’s model shows success, at least on a small scale, though it’s still early.
Powerhouse takes a minority stake in its startup and generates revenue if it is acquired or goes public. Currently, Powerhouse gets most of its capital from grants, corporate sponsors, such as SolarCity and SunPower, and office lease fees. It is raising funds from angel investors so that it can invest in more companies.
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None of its companies have gone public or been bought so far, but some of them have received funding after going through an accelerated process and increasing the company’s value along the way. Kirsch says early adopters in the accelerator program have seen their net worth increase by up to 40 times.
Kirsch says four of the startups in the incubator program have been bought so far, though the company is not involved. But their exits help build the powerhouse’s reputation among entrepreneurs and investors.
Kirsch has been with us since day one. Years ago, when Kirsch was working for Van Jones, an environmental and civil rights activist who briefly served as President Obama’s former green-jobs adviser, he asked her if she would be interested in helping a new venture called Solar Mosaic, which provides financing for solar panels. ‘rooftop solar, a pilot program in Oakland. Meanwhile, Jones’ friend Prince wanted to invest a quarter of a million dollars in solar projects in Oakland and ended up financing the first four Solar Mosaic buildings.
Based on that experience—connecting a young solar developer with partners and capital—Kirsch and Danny Kennedy, a former Greenpeace campaign director who founded the solar company Sungevity, founded a company to test the model. which can serve many other solar companies. . They changed the company name, SFunCube, to Powerhouse two years ago.
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During a visit earlier this year to Powerhouse headquarters, many entrepreneurs were busy pitching their products and mingling with partners at the weekly open house. Powerhouse Group has teamed up UtilityAPI with its first investor, Better Ventures, as well as a consultant, Jon Wellinghoff, a former CEO of the Energy Information Administration. After going through an accelerated process, UtilityAPI, which makes software to collect information about building energy and deliver it to customers like solar or energy providers, has gone from two founders to nine people. It now has office space on the sixth floor of the Powerhouse after using a shared desk.
Lucas says the co-working space became a “brain trust” because the entrepreneurs all brought different skills. It allowed him to get quick answers to energy policy or technical parameters.
Another fast-moving leader, BrightCurrent, which works with major retailers and solar companies to sell solar panels and install services, now employs 120 people and made a profit last year, according to founder John Bourne. and CEO of the company for five years. Bourne says Powerhouse has helped his company connect with investors (such as Better Ventures) and customers and boost sales. In the fast-paced program, Bourne met with Kirsch or Kennedy once a week to go over BrightCurrent’s plans and brainstorm ideas to overcome obstacles.
“Being an entrepreneur can be very lonely, lonely and difficult. You’re working alone and trying to build something,” Bourne said. When she joined, Powerhouse was working in the Sungevity office and said: “It was a warm and welcoming place and I found people who cared about me. It was a big win for me. “
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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 energy startups, including UtilityAPI, Sunible and BrightCurrent.
“Powerhouse is one of the intersections of the solar ecosystem and helps bring industrial ideas to the industry. Being around them keeps us exposed to new ideas and new people. “
Overall, Powerhouse is still very young. Its companies have contributed to the installation of 242 megawatts of solar power, employing 386 people and generating revenues of $52 million. It’s probably the team’s biggest flaw – it’s limited, it’s too focused, and it’s still working on a small scale.
But they make up the bulk of the investment and nurturing of new carbon-based energy companies. Other companies developing energy-based accelerators include Cyclotron Road, a partnership 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 stage development.
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Powerhouse founder Danny Kennedy, who now heads the California Clean Energy Fund, explains the importance of projects like Powerhouse and the California Clean Energy Fund this way: “We need energy investment plans much earlier. more than ever to use energy. The transition is important. Around the world, many companies are investing in solar power. There are many reasons for this. For one thing, the efficiency of solar panels has improved