Colorado Tech Sparks Disruption in Energy Industry

As a renewable energy leader, Colorado's energy industry has more opportunities than ever, especially with the renewable market growing steadily. The Colorado State Energy Office emphasizes just that in the introduction of their 2014 report

"Colorado's diversity of energy resources, business-friendly environment, and world-class research institutions puts the state on a path toward a more secure energy future."

With these perfect conditions, people are merging Denver's love for tech with the opportunities in the energy industry. Companies are innovating new ways to save money, power, and other resources; whether it be connecting power consumers to investors or putting them at the center of everything.

Here are four awesome Colorado-natives jumping at the opportunities we're seeing in the energy industry:  

Wunder Capital 

Wunder Capital is a Boulder-based company that "makes investing in solar dead simple." The TechStars graduate connects investors with solar projects in need of financing. Wunder manages the entire project, from the sourcing, to completion of the project, to the ongoing operation and maintenance, to, finally, distributing proceeds to investors. Wunder offers two different funds for investors, and the company has been widely applauded for appealing to a wide range of investors, including many who don't care about the environment at all— they just like the returns. 

The company was founded due to the slow growth of the commercial solar panel installation market in comparison to the residential and large-scale utility markets. Between 2011 and 2014, the residential solar panel installation market more than tripled and the large-scale utility market more than quadrupled. In that same period, the commercial market only grew 25%. According to Wunder's Co-Founder and CEO, Bryan Birsic, this is because the commercial market is underserved when it comes to financing options. 

While there are multiple financing options for homeowners that allow no upfront costs, businesses are out of luck—unless their at the top 5% of US businesses by size. In order to get a loan for a solar installation, a business must have a credit score, but the big three credit agencies will only give scores to a select few. Other businesses have credit databut not an actual score. Therefore, scale utilities and manufacturers are approved for loans, but small businesses must take an extra step. Companies that are not in the top 5% of all US businesses by size must determine their own credit worthiness themselves, introducing increased costs, work, and friction. Wunder saw a solution to this entry barrier to solar for businesses. 

Wunder Capital is a platform that connects solar projects with investors. Solar developers and installers find the consumer, examine the roof, and give the power consumer the quote. When it's time to figure out the financing, that's when Wunder comes in. Wunder will gather all information and data about the business, the building, and planned system and connect qualified projects with accredited investors. 

Odyssey Energy Solutions 

Wunder is a resource for businesses and investors seeking to do good, diversify their portfolio, and see strong returns. Also up in Boulder, Odyssey Energy Solutions connects every player in energy projects: power consumers, financiers, project developers, and hardware developers for rural projects. Founded just this year, the company's ultimate goal is to "bring electricity to the 1.2 billion people who do not have it." 

The online marketplace facilitates the distribution of mini-grids and distributed power plants all around the world by connecting key players. Odyssey's software includes 10 tools (below) for their users, increasing efficiency, communication, and relationships among the industry. While still a very young company, keep Odyssey on your radar for their focus on mini-grid distribution. 

Mini-grids are electrical grids that are able to operate either connected to a main electrical grid or in isolation. They combine the most cost-effective, reliable energy sources (such as wind, solar and batteries), and involve small scale electricity generation (10W to 10MW). Mini-grids have recently been in the media for their popularity and success in communities in Africa, and spoken as "holding great promise" for electrifying remote areas, and boosting economic activity around the world. 

HOMER Energy 

Our third Boulder friend, HOMER Energy also focuses on mini-grids (also called micro-grids), but on design optimization. HOMER, or Hybrid Optimization of Multiple Energy Resources, determines which combination of energy sources will work where, aiming for maximum renewable sources. Their software show users how to combine renewable sources and traditional sources for maximum reliability at the lowest cost.

The software was developed in the National Renewable Energy Laboratory specifically to model hybrid powered mini-grids, and optimizes and simplifies usage. Additionally, one of the main goals of the software is to help users determine how variable resources, such as wind and solar, can be best integrated into hybrid systems. HOMER also emphasizes their help to make mini grids the most reliable, safe, and cost-effective it can be while still relying on renewable energy sources. 

HOMER's optimization tool seeks to help make mini grids as effective in every area as possible. The company is confident in the rapid growth of mini grid usage, similarly to the rest of the industry. One study by Research and Markets reports that "a variety of factors are driving the micro grid market, including falling prices for renewable energy, growth in the energy storage segment, military micro grid initiatives, and climate change." Another report expects the global micro grid market will reach $34.943 billion by the year 2021, at a compound annual growth rate of 10.9%.

The growth is massive for this industry, and, as HOMER points out, with the recent increase in small projects around the world, more and more non-power industry professionals are participating in project development. HOMER's software, training, and on-line community makes project development and micro grid optimization and design more accessible to more people around the world.   

Tendril 

Finally, located here in Denver, Tendril is also an optimization tool. Tendril has redefined the energy industry by putting the customer at the center of everything. The platform is applauded for applying a decade of expertise in energy and behavioral science, giving energy providers a complete understanding of their individual customers, and a competitive advantage. 

Tendril takes pride in working with some of the most customer-focused energy providers in the world: "who are working to redefine the energy industry by putting the customer at the center of everything they do," the company states. Their software gets all the specifics: building characteristics, hyper local weather patters and their impact on energy consumption, the type of heating and cooling systems installed, the home's thermal dynamics, and more. The software gives an understanding of the home, the people inside of the home, and how they engage with their energy services, to name a few. Once the data is collected and analyzed to understand individualized energy actions and patters, it is possible to predict and optimize energy consumption in the home. These deep insights allow Tendril's customers to improve their own customer acquisition, service, and engagement; and orchestrate personalized home energy experiences. 

Tendril's best-known solution is Tendril Orchestrated Energy, which received a Gold 2017 Edison Award in Energy Efficiency. Orchestrated Energy is a Continuous Demand Management Solution, and the first cloud-based software of it's kind. According to Tendril, Demand Management is broken: it puts utility needs over customer comfort. This means that when there is a peak in energy demand, cooling systems, for example, will shut off in order to keep other electricity on, leaving customers without A/C. Without Tendril, energy providers cannot look at individual home characteristics, treating all consumers, and their energy usage, the same. Now with their Orchestrated Energy platform, providers get continuous insights of over 140 million homes to optimize energy usage and better understand their target markets. 

On top of being recognized for a Gold Edison Award, Tendril has also been recognized as a Top Workplace, received a Grid Edge Award, was honored by DBJ's Top Women in Energy, and was featured as an Amazon Web Services "Hot Startup," all just in 2017.

We can't wait to see what's next for all these companies!