Norwegian startup Glint Solar has built a SaaS platform to help developers identify strong contenders for ground-based (or floating) solar projects with the aim of supporting a fast-growing industry to launch a strong pipeline of projects as a demand to accelerate the shift to renewable energy continues.
Co-founder and COO, Even Kvelland, tells us his approach builds on satellite imagery, government (and other) data sets, as well as applying machine learning and other algorithms, to provide clients with assessments of the risks and costs of future solar energy. installations.
The software-as-a-service platform can be used to model costs and risks for on-ground solar installations, as well as assess project viability for a growing niche of floating solar farms, such as solar installations in dams and reservoirs.
Since its launch in March 2020, Kvelland says Glint Solar has taken on 14 customers in markets around the world, including Northern Europe, Asia, and the Americas, with a range of developers large and small leveraging its one-stop shop for assessing potential solar projects — name checks like Scatec, Fortum and TotalEnergies++ as one of the first wave of signups.
“What we’ve done in the last two years since we started the company is understand what the main obstacles are [to solar energy projects]† And it’s become pretty clear that the biggest headache for the core customer, solar developers — those companies that actually build the parks — is that they’re struggling to build their project pipelines, so get enough projects. [lined up]’ he tells Vidak For Congress. “What we’re doing is we’re going into the early stages — helping them identify and analyze potential project sites.”
The platform enables clients to look through “tens of thousands” of possible project locations, per Kvelland – reducing their options to “very good” prospects, based on the ability to perform cost analysis and spot issues that would otherwise be major problems. could cause (or even derail a project) down the line.
“We conduct or have our clients perform a preliminary technical and financial analysis and then devote the time to those projects where you can optimize the chances of success,” he summarizes the core function.
Reducing the time to build a solar installation is a touted benefit, but the tool’s utility is broader, according to Kvelland, who says it can help a customer find and realize the value of a solar installation, for example. (otherwise) overlooked site.
The SaaS platform is able to analyze factors such as available solar radiation and proximity to key infrastructure, such as capacity in the network to connect to projects – which, according to Kvelland, is a “huge Capex driver”.
It also takes into account social and environmental regulations, as well as other physical factors, such as shade on a site; extreme weather; or the height or slope of the land, among other things – to feed its modeling.
For floating solar, it can support project scoping by analyzing underwater characteristics – such as water depth and whether there is rocky or slippery bottom – that can affect project capex and opex costs (since floating solar installations are typically so must be anchored, the deeper the water body, the more expensive it can be, for example).
“Here we have tried to detect both the types of natural versus man-made bodies of water using machine learning and also the depth measurement – so basically the underwater topography using some satellite imagery and looking at how much light is penetrating through the water and then reflected he explains. “It’s complex – there are a few people in the world who have successfully built a really good model, so that’s part of the problem we’re working on.”
Glint Solar’s ultimate goal is to help customers find more valuable locations for solar installations at a time when competition for such locations is increasing as demand for renewable energy sources continues to grow.
“Against the background of the energy transition already [away from fossil fuels] but we also see – especially in Europe as Ukraine and Germany and other countries are doubling down on renewables – we see that they really need to start much faster now and have more projects through the funnel to get the best ones done,” says Kvelland.
“On the macro side, we see that solar could grow at around 24%-25% yoy through 2030, so I think we’re definitely in a booming market and we’re – currently – capturing value at the very highest level. level.start and then… I think there are a whole range of additional values that we can provide [our customers] either later in the value chain or in other vertical markets, with wind or battery storage. So it’s a big market that we’re aiming for,” he adds.
Demonstrating the value of the product will likely take time as it is too early for Glint Solar’s customers to make progress on the solar projects they have used the tool to size and prioritize. But Kvelland notes that “different” insights have taken the insights they gained from using the software to the “next stage” — which he says means they’re either in the negotiation process with the landowner/water owner or more detailed technical work. are doing or are in the final phase of project financing.
“Hopefully we expect to see some of the first projects come online later this year,” he adds.
Glint Solar announces $3 million seed funding, which it says will be used to scale the business — with a plan to expand into new countries, as well as expand customer base in key markets in Europe and the U.S. expand. That’s why it plans to double the size of its team over the next year as it prepares to take advantage of the battle to build out solar power plants.
Investors in the starting round include Momentum, an early stage Norwegian fund, Wiski Capital and cleantech and energy investor, Statkraft Ventures, and some existing shareholders.
Hilde Støle Pettersen, managing partner at Momentum, said in a statement: “We have been following the Glint team since the company was founded and have always loved their idea of accelerating the solar revolution through valuable insights. With their early commercial traction and the fantastic team they are building, we now found the timing right and we look forward to supporting the team in the coming years working with very strong co-investors.”
The startup previously went through the Antler accelerator in Oslo and secured some pre-seed funding through that program.
Kvelland also tells how it got an early ‘cold call’ from a US-based private equity fund, via LinkedIn, that was eager to invest (unusual, given the early stage of the company – but it probably expects big growth in solar. energy). So all in all, he says it raised ~$700k in outside funding before the launch, not including the funds it had put in by its founders when they started up to get the SaaS business off the ground.
The business model it uses at this stage is a simple, company-wide, annual license model by market, by Kvelland.
On the competition front, he has says Glint Solar’s focus on early-stage solar projects gives it an edge — arguing that there’s relatively little focus on that end of the solar value chain.
But he can point to a few US-based competitors, such as an experienced data management software company, TerraBase† and GeoCFa software platform he says was acquired by a solar developer who wanted to leverage its capabilities internally to offer similar services.
Other competition comes from more generalist technical tools and/or consultancies, he suggests.
“Today it’s a lot of rudimentary tools. From people literally looking at Google Maps trying to guess what could potentially be a good project area, to working with existing consultancies coming in from farmers. So what we’re trying to do is finally give the developers a proactive tool that allows them to screen a very large number of sites for a number of different variables much earlier, and then take the information that these days is normally something that you can review later in the project phase. — [and] take that into account in the early review.
“Because what we keep hearing from solar developers is that they often discover something later that might – in the worst case scenario – break the project, so they have to start all over again, so we want to give them as much relevant insight as early as possible.” to give.”