LØRN case C0116 -
LØRN. STARTUP

Andrea Barber

Grunder

Rated Power

Designing solar power plants

In this episode of?#LØRN, Marianne Carpenter talks to co-founder of RatedPower, Andrea Barber, about how they have created a cloud-based software solution to design solar power plants all over the world, and how RatedPower wants to merge technology and engineering, in order to reduce the cost of implementing and optimizing the performance of solar power plants. Through this podcast, Andrea shares her experience about how to develop software meant to design and engineer large-scale solar power plants, and her thoughts on how energy will drive economies and sustain societies in the future.
LØRN case C0116 -
LØRN. STARTUP

Andrea Barber

Grunder

Rated Power

Designing solar power plants

In this episode of?#LØRN, Marianne Carpenter talks to co-founder of RatedPower, Andrea Barber, about how they have created a cloud-based software solution to design solar power plants all over the world, and how RatedPower wants to merge technology and engineering, in order to reduce the cost of implementing and optimizing the performance of solar power plants. Through this podcast, Andrea shares her experience about how to develop software meant to design and engineer large-scale solar power plants, and her thoughts on how energy will drive economies and sustain societies in the future.
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21 min

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MC: Hello and welcome to Lørn Tech. Today we’re talking about energy technology. My name name is Marianne Carpenter and I’m sitting with Andrea Barber. Welcome.

AB: Thank you.

MC: Already energized up by today’s topic. So let’s dive straight into it. Can you tell us about your role as co-founder and CEO of Rated Power and how you got into energy technology.

AB: I’m CEO and co-founder of Rated Power and it’s a company based in Madrid. We develop the design and engineering of larger scale of solar plants with large plants as you see from the road with floatable panels. I ended up making these because my two co-founders and I used to work in the industry for 7 years each and we did the engineering of the larger scale solar plants all over the world. We saw that it was (?) when it comes to design and to study the possibility for the plants. We used 3-4 weeks of work to study the matrocolody data and therefore the production and to select the right equipment and placing it in the right position. It’s tricky how you artitecture the plants and you put in different cables if you want to use one kind of panel or another or if you want to use structures that follow the sun.

MC: Let’s help the listeners to understand the scale. Your utility PV-plants. I work in Scatec Solar and I know a little bit cause we do this. Can you help us with some examples? Why would people get the software?

AB: We help the architecture of the plants. We architect for buildings and companies, and it takes a lot of time to build a building and decide how to do it. We want to make more efficient divisibility phase, so that instead of using a lot of weeks we can just make it in 5 minutes. You’ll have a better optimization of the plant and also you could loan the electricity of the plant.

MC: Isn’t it a setup for a solar panel in a sunny area, does that not mean you can generate a lot of clean energy or what’s the complexity that your company is trying to make easier?

AB: We work mainly for developers and construction companies for EPC contractors.

MC: EPC?

AB: EPC are contractors, construction companies that comes from engineering and procure and construction. We work mainly for developers or companies like Equinor or contractors that are building the plants. In order to develop one plant, companies like Equinor have to first select the right place to implement the models and plants. Then once it’s selected you have to check a lot of difference things. The radiation and to select the main equipment. It’s not that easy to put the panels up and wait for energy to be generated. You have to be careful with the financial part and to select the right configurations in order to maximize the process and minimize the cost of the energy. That’s where we help.

MC: I’ve seen a little bit on your website. It’s seems simple in a way, a few steps and all of a sudden a lot of hours of work has happened through software. Could you unpack what the software do? How does it get information that’s helpful in terms of deciding for example where you should build your power plant or what type of panels should you use?

AB: We don’t recommend the equipment. You have to go into our website, and go into our cloud software from anywhere and any kind of devise. You log in and then you upload your pre selected location of your site. You’ll need a Google earth file and decide the terreng you want to use, and where the substation and the roads are, and the point of access. If there’s any rivers or restricted area. When it’s uploaded you have to select the main equipment and the main area. In a easy way so you don’t have to have a very deep technical knowledge, of course you have to be familiar with the technology, but you don’t need to be an expert, just an overall knowledge. When you select the main criteria and equipment, for example if you want the road to be premetrial or vertical, or if you want a the distance between the road or a lower distance. This kind of criteria. You select the panels that converts the electricity and the structure you click the sign. Our algorithms using logistics, it comes from millions of liturations, and define the right configuration. It’s not obvious to the human brain. Once the configuration is selected the program also generates a lot of the documentations. Which are hundreds of pages of spreadsheets, reports, diagrams and drawings indicating what is needed to build the plants. For example we generate a build of materials in an excel file with the materials and documents, quantities in order to build the powerplant. You can quickly have a copy of the plant and also a lot of details of the civil part and the production.

MC: Really important for the stakeholders that’s needed to take a project from development to building it and operating it which is the thing with utility scale PV-plants that’s there for a long term. I know that you are a part of techstar exelator program in your company together with Equinor and partners. Can you tell us about what brought you there? I know your role as CEO and co-founder in Spain has been seen by many as extraordinary.

AB: Techstar are known in the startup and technology industry as one of the main exelators in the world. It’s harder to get in than in Oxford or Harvard. Thousands of companies apply every year and the reason is because they are an exelator program for companies that are not in the seat stage. For example in our case where we were cost flow positive and didn’t raise any money and didn’t need it. Also some of my colleagues from other startups raised million of dollars, but their value is that they will help you exelator in only 3 months. Which means they will put all their efforts in giving you any kind of support that you need in your stage. In our case we needed to scale up and to understand how to build quickly a team and also what the right strategy for the next years. We have a program for the future and it’s very defined for the next three years, based mainly on the feedback for our customers. But then we could potentially move to wind or make the detail engineering within the larger scale solar or maybe we can move to residential. This is the kind of things that the program techstars together with Equinor and McKinsey are helping us in different aspects of the company strategy.

MC: I know that you’ve been rated on of the most engaging and well performing female CEO in Spain and taking this into the energy technology field on a global scale is great news for the future. Could you tell us what the thing is about energy technology? Why is it important and why so exciting?

AB: Energy production and use is also the single biggest contributor to global warming. The energy sector accounts for about 2/3 of global greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to human activity. It’s hard cope and mediate in energy demands expected in the next decades. Having a better technology will improve efficiency. The matter here is how to make energy faster in the cleanest way. It’s important to put our efforts to try to make technology so we make energy cheaper and hoping to renewable energy to be more accessible to everyone. That’s also why Rated Power try to match technology and engineering so we can decrease the cause of implementation of clean energy to optimize performance.

MC: That the key. I’ve read that it’s still more than a billion of people who do not have access to power. There’s 1,3 billion that lives in the dark, the population is increasing and it’s an increase of the demand of energy. Having good sustainable energy technology like what your company is producing seems to be an important part of the solution going forward.

AB: Yes, as developing nations becomes more industrialized it will need to access renewable electricity supplies. There’s a lot of people in the world still cooking and heating their homes using stoves and open fires. If this changes we need to get ready for it.

MC: This sounds like a sunny story. I’m sure it could be a more controversial side or scary parts connected to energy technology?

AB: There’s a lot of controversies and issues. Regarding solar and renewable in general they profit of availability and availability of power. Solar and wind are not available through the entire years and it’s not water in all of the places. I think this is being solved by technical advances in technology. By including distributed generators and batteries. For example in the case of solar, the cause of using the power plants and panels the prices will be lower in the coming years. In the case of batteries I think in larger scale solar plants we haven’t seen batteries yet integrated, only for distributed generators, residential plants and rooftops. I think in the future the solution is to mix batteries with…

MC: I’m aware. I think that’s needed if we’re going to make use of the free power generator up in the sky going forward. If people would like understand more, can you give some examples of your favourite technologies within energy. One thing is what Rated Power is doing, but what inspire you?

AB: I think a good mix of clean energy is the best thing to have. But you have to take advantage of the conditions of every country. For example in Norway you have a lot of greens and offshore, and that’s an example for the rest of the countries on the planet. I think it depends a lot on every country and the right mix of renewable energy. I’m passionate about renewable in general, not only solar. Also with wind. The distributed generators will be the future with larger scale also in areas which are more in the desert, residential buildings and not industrialized. For me is every new type of technology like wind, offshore distributed with generators is what really excite me about the technology using energy.

MC: You were trying to put this into some sizable perspectives and saying that the amount of solar power capacity is expected to be added in the coming years is equivalent to about 17 000 new solar power every hour which is enough to cover about a 1000 sockets every day.

AB: I like to put this as an example to have an idea of how big the solar industry is. Also I like to say in a year and a half we have made 500 years of work of traditionale engineering. This is an example of how we can improve efficiency of the technology. Solar just doubled the last two years.

MC: It’s growing. Should engineers worry when companies like yours are coming full speed? Are their skills needed or will they be replaced?

AB: They shouldn’t worry, it’s the contrary. What we do is to help them be for efficient and to dedicate their resources in productive tasks. In our software we help them is to optimize, before the could only do 2 or 3 configurations, now they can do a 100 in a day. That’s how our customers can study a 100 different simulations run in one day. They have better projects and optimized projects. They can dedicate their time into making the price lower and accurate and optimal.

MC: Time is often spent to go through a model and simulate where to build, and what’s important to the investors. I know for my side, we use a lot of time in here as you say, if you can in a day simulate 1 500 potential spots in a country you’ll make better decisions. Why do you think we’re good at energy technology in Norway? Any recommendations for people to read?

AB: Norway is an example of a country that cares about nature. You have a close relationship with it and my experience here for 3 months has been amazing and I love to see how people care and how you use electric cars. You invest broadly in energy efficiency. I think you do a lot of things well here. But mainly it’s the close relationship with nature and the way you have good mix between renewable energy and traditional energy that you produce and sell abroad.

MC: If you could leave people with one picture in their mind with the software you introduce here, what could it be around energy technology?

AB: My message is that better technology will make the energy more efficient and therefore have to spend less money and carbon energy technology. My message is to optimize technology and use the technology to produce cleaner energy is something we all have to worry about. We don’t have anything if we don’t have enough energy in the future. We have to take care of the planet.

MC: It’s more people coming and more people who wants a better standard of living. Optimizing the energy technology is very appreciated. Thank you Andrea Barber for coming and talking to us. Thank you to the listeners.

AB: Thank you.

Who are you and how did you become interested in energy technology?

I’m Andrea Barber, the CEO and co-founder of RatedPower.

What is your role at work?

We are on a mission to accelerate energy transition. We are bringing energy into the 21st century. We are developing the leading software for designing and engineering large-scale solar power plants in just a few minutes.

What are the most important challenges facing the energy technology industry/your sub-branch ?

Energy drives economies and sustains societies. But energy production and consumption is also the single biggest contributor to global warming. The challenge is to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels to power our households, workplaces and transportation systems, while making reliable, clean and affordable energy available to everyone on the planet. Better technology will improve efficiency. Technology is making energy cheaper and making renewable energy more accessible to everyone. And that’s our focus at RatedPower. We are merging technology and engineering so we can reduce the cost of implementing solar plants and optimise their performance.

Why is this exciting?

One of the most exciting aspects of the renewable energy industry is that there is no end to the potential for innovation — every day we discover something new.

What do you think are the most interesting controversies?

Regarding solar and renewables in general, the main controversies surround profitability and availability. But these challenges are being solved through advances in technology, such as by using distributed generation and battery storage to store renewable energy generated when demand is low to meet later demand.

Is there anything we do particularly well in this field here in Norway?

Compared to the rest of the world, Norway is already a highly energy-efficient country. It is streaks ahead when it comes to using electric cars, and Norwegians have a natural affinity to and a desire to live in synergy with nature. Compared to the rest of the world, Norway is already a highly energy-efficient country. It is streaks ahead when it comes to using electric cars, and Norwegians have a natural affinity to and a desire to live in synergy with nature.

Do you have a favourite energy technology quote ?

“Nature provides a free lunch, but only if we control our appetites.” — William Ruckelshaus.

Can you share a cool fact with us?

We like to say that with our pvDesign software, we have already achieved advancements equivalent to 500 years of conventional engineering.

Andrea Barber
Grunder
Rated Power
CASE ID: C0116
TEMA: SECTOR RELATED INNOVATION
DATE : 181116
DURATION : 21 min
YOU WILL LØRN ABOUT:
Solar powerRenewable energyEnergy efficiency
QUOTE
"We are trying to merge technology and engineering so we can decrease the cost of implementation of this solar plants, and to optimize its performance."
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