SaaS from Glint Solar helps developers launch a range of renewable energy projects.

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Norwegian startup, Glitter Solarcreated a SaaS platform to help developers identify strong applicants for onshore (or floating) solar projects with the aim of supporting a rapidly growing industry to deploy a strong flow of projects as a requirement to accelerate the transition to renewable energy. continues.

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Co-founder and COO Even Kvelland tells us that his approach is based on satellite imagery, government (and other) datasets, and the application of machine learning and other algorithms to provide customers with risk and cost estimates for prospective solar energy. installation.

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Its software as a service platform can be used to model costs and risks for onshore solar installations, as well as to assess the viability of projects for the growing niche of floating solar parks, such as solar installations located on dams and reservoirs.

Since launching back in March 2020, Glint Solar has connected 14 customers in markets around the world, including Northern Europe, Asia, North and South America, with a number of developers large and small connecting to its one-stop shop, Quelland said. to evaluate possible solar projects – checking the names of companies such as Scatec, Fortum and TotalEnergies++ among the first subscribers.

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“What we have spent the last two years since the founding of the company is to understand what are the main obstacles [to solar energy projects]. And it became quite clear that the biggest headache for the main client, solar energy developers – those companies that actually build the parks – is that they struggle to build their project pipelines, so get enough projects. [lined up]” he tells TechCrunch. “What we’re doing is getting to the early stages, helping them both identify and analyze potential project locations.”

The platform allows clients to view “tens of thousands” of possible project locations, according to Kvelland, narrowing their options down to “very good” prospects based on its ability to perform cost analysis and identify issues that could otherwise create major problems (or even derail a project). ) in future.

“We do or allow our clients to do upfront technical and financial analysis and then spend time on projects where you can optimize your chances of success,” is how he sums up the core function.

Reducing the time it takes to build a solar installation is one of the touted benefits, but the utility of the tool is broader, according to Quelland, who says it can, for example, help a client find and appreciate the value of an (otherwise) overlooked facility.

The SaaS platform is able to analyze factors such as available solar radiation and proximity to key infrastructure, such as network bandwidth to connect to projects, which Kwelland says is a “huge driver of capital investment.”

It also takes into account social and environmental regulations and also considers other physical factors such as shading on the site; extreme weather conditions; or the height or slope of the ground, among other things – to feed into its simulation.

For floating solar installations, it can support project scoping by analyzing underwater features such as water depth and the presence of a rocky or smooth bottom, which can affect the capital and operating costs of the project (because floating solar installations usually need to be anchored, so for example, the deeper the body of water the more expensive it can be).

“Here we tried to determine both the types of natural and artificial water bodies using machine learning as well as bathymetry – that is, basically underwater topography, using a series of satellite images and observing how much light penetrates through the water and then reflects back,” — he explains. “It’s tricky – 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 higher value solar installation sites at a time when competition for such sites is on the rise as demand for renewable energy continues to grow.

“Against the backdrop of already energy transition [away from fossil fuels] but also – especially in Europe now that Ukraine, Germany and other countries are doubling down on renewables – we are seeing that they really need to start much faster now and have more projects in the funnel to get the best of them off the ground,” Kwelland says.

“From a macro perspective, we see that solar power could increase by about 24%-25% year-on-year through 2030, so I think we are definitely in a booming market and we are locking in – currently – the cost at the highest level. first and then … I think we can offer a whole range of additional benefits [our customers] either later in the value chain, or in other verticals in the future, with wind or battery storage. So we aim for a big market,” he adds.

Demonstrating the value of their product will likely take time, as it is too early for Glint Solar customers to push the solar projects they have used to scale and prioritize. But Quelland notes that “several” have taken the information gained from using the software to the “next step” – which he says means they are either in the process of negotiating with the land/water owner or doing more detailed engineering. work or are in the last stages of project financing.

“We hope to see the first online projects later this year,” he adds.

Glint Solar announces that it has raised $3 million in seed funding that it says will be used to scale the business – with a plan to expand into new countries as well as expand its customer base in key markets in Europe and the US. Consequently, the company plans to double the size of its team over the next year as it prepares to capitalize on the scramble to build solar power plants.

Seed round investors include sustainability-focused Momentum, Norwegian early stage fund, Wiski Capital and cleantech and energy investor Statkraft Ventures, as well as some existing shareholders.

Commenting on her announcement, Hilda Stole Pettersen, Managing Partner of Momentum, said: “We have been following the Glint team since the company’s inception and have always loved their idea of ​​accelerating the solar revolution with valuable insights. With their early commercial success and the fantastic team they’re building, we’ve found the right moment. We look forward to supporting the team in the coming years in cooperation with very strong co-investors.”

The startup previously went through the Antler accelerator in Oslo, receiving some pre-funding through the program.

Kvelland also recounts how he got a cold call via LinkedIn from a US private equity fund that was keen to invest (unusual given the early stage of the business – but it does seem to be predicting significant growth in solar energy). So overall, he says, the company raised about $700,000 in external funding prior to the seed round, not counting the funds invested by the founders when they set about launching the SaaS business.

According to Kwelland, the business model being used at this stage is a simple yearly licensing model for the entire company, depending on the market.

On the competitive front says Glint Solar’s focus on the early phase of solar projects gives it an advantage, arguing that there is relatively little attention at this end of the solar value chain.

But he can point to a few American competitors, naming veterans such as the data management software firm, TerraBase; as well as GeoCFa software platform that he says was acquired by a solar energy developer looking to exploit opportunities within the company by offering similar services.

Other competition comes from more versatile tech tools and/or consulting firms, he suggests.

“Usually today it is a lot of rudimentary instruments. From people literally looking at Google Maps trying to guess what a potentially good project area is, to working with outdated engineering consulting firms getting input from farmers. So what we’re trying to do is finally give developers a proactive tool that will allow them to check a very large number of sites much faster against a number of different variables, and then get information that normally today might be something that you evaluate later. at the project stage [and] put it in an early estimate.

“Because we hear from solar panel developers all the time that they often discover something later that possibly – at worst – breaks the project, so they have to start from scratch, so we want to give them as much important information as possible as earlier as possible.”

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