For a company yet to realize a commercial product, the claim that said company will “disrupt the global electrical and powered products industries” is nothing short of lofty, and yet this is the exact rhetoric preached by those at Amber Solutions, a Silicon Valley startup that has developed a “groundbreaking” AC/DC enabler and AC switch.
The highly-touted technology does not use standard electro-mechanical structures, instead replacing those components with a much more compact solid-state board, with solid-state referring to electricity flowing through solid semiconductor crystals within the board, rather than vacuum tubes. The resulting technology, according to Amber CEO and co-founder Thar Casey, is faster, more reliable and much less prove to usage-based wear and degradation than any competing product.
‘When Mark [Telefus] and I got together and started talking about power, electricity, control, all of that stuff, it was never about ‘Ok, how do we improve on something that is broken?'” Casey told pv magazine. “‘What if we come up with something that is totally different?’ When we realized eventually what we had, we realized that it was very big. That’s when we went out there and started to build the company around what we have and brought all of these investors with us. At the end of the day, what we have here isn’t an addition, it’s not an added bell or whistle to an existing technology. In reality it’s about disruption, true disruption.”
And while the claims get loftier and loftier by the minute, it seems that it’s not just Amber buying into the hype. The company has signed a Letter of Intent with revenue and six Memorandums of Understanding with leading global electronics manufacturers, three of which were signed during the Covid-19 lockdown, to explore product, scoping, development and contract terms. While Casey was not at liberty to exactly what companies the agreements were signed with, he did share that “You’d known who they were if you heard them.”
While the team at Amber tends to tout the in-home applications of their AC/DC Enabler, with visions of a every circuit breaker, outlet, light switch, and appliance connected and communicating in real-time to provide the most comprehensive look at one’s energy usage, they have their sights set just as firmly renewable energy asset management.
“You have to have a hardware interface between all sources of energy. Amber Board Member Mark Telefus told pv magazine. “To use that energy in a household, you have to find the proper balance – an equilibrium. You need synchronization between the inverter, the battery and the generation source. As of right now, there’s this specialized, dedicated, box where all the circuit breakers and switches are located. Our AC switch is adaptive. What it does is measure the energy availability of all energy sources available. Based on what you see, you make a decision whether to use all of your resources simultaneously, one resource at a time or alternate resources at different times.”
And while this level of control does exist for solar + storage installations, it is currently handled by standard electro-mechanical structures. According to the folks at Amber, their AC switch is able to achieve every necessary function in a smaller form factor, more quickly, due to the solid-state board and with a considerably lower rates of degradation and failure, which contribute to a longer system life.
Those themes of reliability and control come up constantly when talking to the Amber team, affirming how critical they are to the company’s mission. Now, as the company moves from developing demo models and pre-production concepts and starts to work with electronics manufacturers, Amber’s solid-state technology will be put to the test, to see if it can deliver on these lofty promises.