In this installment of Startup Sunday, three companies are scaling up in solar, energy storage, and transportation.
EightTwenty spotlights Oklahoma solar
Solar installer EightTwenty, which was founded in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, sets its sights on a relatively untapped solar market.
Oklahoma is the sixth sunniest state in the nation, and OKC is a top-30 sunniest city, said EightTwenty. Even so, CEO Tony Capucille said there are only 2,500 solar homes, few commercial installations, and only one large-scale project.
A region built on the back of oil and gas, the Sooner State sources one-third of its net generation from wind turbines when the wind comes sweeping down the plain.
But solar lags, thus far only achieving about 1.2% market penetration, said the company. EightTwenty plans to step in and provide residential, commercial, and institutional solar.
The company said it aims to be flexible in its installation techniques, expanding past rooftop solar to also provide ground mounts, pergolas, canopies and carports.
The company’s charitable outreach, known as Give Solar, recently installed its first project, an array for RestoreOKC, a non-profit restorative justice organization.
Flight of the Skydweller
Spanish-American aerospace startup Skydweller, located in Oklahoma City, raised $32 million in Series A funding, led by Italian aerospace firm Leonardo.
In 2016, Skydweller flew a plane called the Solar Impulse 2, which became the first aircraft to circumnavigate the globe without liquid fuel. The solar-powered plane traveled 26,718 miles, stopped in 17 cities, and took nearly a year and a half to complete its voyage. While this journey was slow, it was a noteworthy proof-of-concept that solar planes can indeed fly.
Now a new craft called Skydweller aims for the skies, but this time with nobody in the cockpit. In fact, the autonomous plane doesn’t even have a cockpit, which opens space for other operations like carrying payloads of up to 800 pounds.
Recently, the company achieved its first public contract with Naval Air Systems Command at the Navy League of the United States’ annual Sea Air Space conference.
The plane’s mission: to fly continuously for 90 days. Co-founder John Parks said that flying for 90 days in a single aircraft means one takeoff and one landing, versus hundreds for a conventional aircraft with a pilot. He said this has implications for the U.S. government in national security.
The plane is topped with 2,900 sq. ft. of PV cells, generating up to 2 kW of electricity. An onboard hydrogen fuel cell is installed if several days of cloudy weather persist in a row. The craft has a wingspan of 236 feet, slightly more than a Boeing 747 (224 feet), and will fly at 30,000 to 45,000 feet altitude.
Watts Battery joins accelerator
Watts Battery, California-based producer of smart energy storage and management systems for residential and commercial purposes, joins Alchemist Accelerator, a leading business-to-business enterprise accelerator. Turning good ideas to gold, Alchemist is expected to help Watts Battery scale up through its six-month accelerator program.
The Watts Battery is a modular, portable system that the company said requires no extra components or devices and can be connected to solar panels or other generation source.
It features a demand-response platform that aggregates behind-the-meter data from every cloud-connected, registered Watts Battery module. It allows for smart load balancing and the switch to reserve power during blackouts.
The battery can be deployed virtually anywhere, weighing in at 30 lbs., with dimensions of 14”x18”x5.5”. A single unit has 1.5 kW of power, and delivers 3 kW of power in peak within seven seconds. The batteries are limited to 7.5 kW in phase.
Solar panels up to 1 kW in capacity with a voltage range of 30-95V are supported by one module, which has a built-in solar inverter.
The modular batteries can scale up to 10 modules, totaling 12 kWh per rack, and multiple racks allow for unlimited expansion. The lithium-ion battery takes about four hours to fully charge.
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