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Can These Three Smart-Grid Startups Ease Solar’s Integration?

Can These Three Smart-Grid Startups Ease Solar’s Integration?

Originally posted March 31, 2014 on Solar Power World

When you think of smart-grid developments, your thoughts turn immediately to solar integration or metering debates. But you should be including smart water heaters and 3D imaging in the discussions.

Three promising Midwest startups may do just that. A few exciting companies from Illinois are affecting the boom in smart grid innovations — and the disruptors behind them.

Whether they’re part of the portfolio at Energy Foundry, a private impact venture capital fund or the Smart Grid Cluster accelerator platform, these diverse technologies stand to put the Midwest on the map this year.

You may never think of water heaters the same way again, thanks to Intellihot Green Technologies. Yes, they also have a part to play in developing the smart grid. Intellihot designs intelligent, tankless water heaters that are built to reduce energy and water use across industrial, commercial and residential applications.

Founded in 2005, the idea for Intellihot was born from necessity after the founder’s own water heater malfunctioned and flooded his basement.

Reasons to watch?
For starters, Intellihot has exceptional leadership, like co-founder Sridhar Deivasigamani. They’re also an Energy Foundry portfolio company and part of the Smart Grid Cluster accelerator.

Among these American-made products are the i Series and iQ Series systems for commercial buildings. Self-cleaning and more compact, they operate 40% more efficiently than traditional water heaters. Who knows what will happen when you add solar energy to that mix?

Whether it’s the home-use or industrial options, keep an eye on this smart take on hot water — there’s more in the tank for 2014.

Building operations and energy markets may have been two ships passing in the night, but the team at QCoefficient aims to change that. The secret is QCo’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) system, which automates, optimizes and scales energy systems to take advantage of building’s thermal mass and improve efficiency.

Or, as QCo describes it, they essentially turn buildings into batteries capable of energy storage on a multi-MW scale.

Take a look at how QCo’s HVAC optimization software evaluates temperature-settings and helps shift consumption to take advantage of lower early-morning temperatures and electrical prices.

Utilities and grid operators stand to gain, too. QCo’s software can help drive 15 to 30% electricity savings and megawatt storage capacity, while introducing elasticity to grid markets — one of the main objections of utilities to adding solar to the grid.

Reasons to watch?
Another member of the Smart Grid Cluster accelerator, QCo connects HVAC operations in individual and larger portfolios of buildings.

Installed in less than two weeks and easy to integrate with existing automation systems, this is one SaaS company that you’ll want to hear more from in 2014.

Grid operators and municipalities crave data, and CityScan unites it all with street-level insights and 3D mapping to make cities (and grids) smarter.

CityScan uses Mobile Terrestrial LiDAR (MTL) to collect street-level data (such as a downed power line) and produce precise 3D renderings of locations to help enhance city safety, improve response times and even help roll out smart grid developments.

From street sign compliance and permitting to grid inventory and preventative maintenance on power lines, this urban data mine seems golden. And think of what this could mean to solar. If you could integrate their solution with solar plant monitoring systems, what couldn’t solar do for the grid?

Reasons to Watch?
A member of 1871 and the Smart Grid Cluster, the software startup’s already a leader in its field, with some of the most advanced 3D visual data collection out there. Couple that with its stable of talented data scientists, and you’ll start to connect the dots on this data-driven startup.

By Gretchen Fitzgibbons, guest writer on Solar Power World