BENGALURU – A startup headquartered between San Diego and Mumbai has invented a technology that is giving solar energy a whole new ray of hope.
Two-year old iGrenEnergi’s eight-panel DC Optimizer (DCO) works on ‘energy packetization’ technology to boost productivity of solar panels to maximum capacity through its life cycle. It addresses a pertinent problem—blockages to sunlight such as shading or any particle like dust, bird droppings or leaves that inhibit energy from falling on a panel. With present day solar technology, only 19-22% of light hitting a panel gets converted into electricity, the balance to heat.
“One shaded panel kills production of all panels. So, if 90% of one panel is not blocked, each panel loses 10% in the string and one guy can impact 20 panels. Our DCO addresses this,” said Sunit Tyagi, co-founder, iGrenEnergi.
The patented technology sits next to a solar panel and can save energy from 10% to 40%. The innovative technology takes the problem of mismatched power and treats packets of energy separately or simply out cuts energy flowing in into little bits, on the back of an algorithm working behind the scenes. After sucking energy of all panels it is flowed to an invertor. “Our device tells panels to work at what capacity,” said Tyagi.
The potential of the product rests on three strategic pillars—reusable hardware platform, which implements the energy packetization architecture, a cloud-based application software to analyse data and produce actionable intelligence, and finally product-specific embedded software to control energy packets flowing through the hardware.
“iGrenEnergi’s method for power management and conversion, which they refer to as ‘energy packetization’, is unique to the best of my knowledge. I am not aware of other companies in India or internationally incorporating this technology in power products. Other existing module level power electronics (MLPE) products for solar industry such as DC Optimizers and micro inverters are based on conventional methods,” said Milind Atrey, professor-In-charge of SINE ( Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship), IIT-Bombay, where it is being currently incubated along with research scientists.
The device is in pilot stage and has been installed at two installations—a residential rooftop and at a small manufacturing company. Ajit Deshmukh installed DCO on his 2 Kilowatt solar installation at his two-storey house in Mumbai and has seen a 10-12% increase in energy efficiency. “I get 8-10 units of power a day that takes care of half the energy consumption of my home. This has also brought my electricity bills down by Rs 2,000 a month,” he said.
Mercom, a consulting firm for clean technology, forecasts solar installations to more than double in 2015, reaching approximately 1,800 megawatts.
“This product seems promising but it’s a matter of time to see how many people will go for a solar installation just because of the DCO. At urban level, installations are going up but the pace is slow. The basic opportunity for this depends on how fast solar installations go up. However, since it’s a startup, if they can sell to existing installations, it can be a good revenue earner in initial few years,” said Pamli Deka, consultant, Regin Paradise Consulting that runs New Ventures, a clean technology innovative centre supporting sustainable energy development.
The company has secured angel investment from high-net worth individuals from Europe and the US to the tune of $0.5 million and is about to close another round of $0.5 million.
Presently the DCO is at pre-revenue stage, the company earns revenue another product – ‘solar emulator’ that’s an electronic box that behaves like a solar panel, purchased by people doing laboratory experiments related to solar energy.
“We’re selling to engineering colleges and labs. Last year, we sold Rs 50 lakh worth of the product,” said Jiten Apte, co-founder, iGrenEnergi.
“Our emphasis, as a company, is to show benefits of our technology approach to make solar energy better applicable in many areas -storage, dealing with battery, electric vehicle storage, or even for grid stabilization,” Tyagi said, adding that their next product to follow will be solar invertors.