Guest: Matt Campbell | Co-Founder & CEO | Terabase Energy
Category: ⚡ Renewable Energy | Scaling Solar
Podcast’s Essential Bites:
[1:40] EK: "Earlier this year, solar reached a historic milestone when it crossed one terawatt of capacity around the world. 1 trillion watts - that is a huge achievement. But solar still only makes up 3% of the world's electricity. To deploy dozens of terawatts in the coming years, we'll need to do something about the bottlenecks holding back the planning, design, and construction of these massive solar farms that will be the workhorses of a renewable powered grid."
[2:21] MC: "Terabase has built the first digital platform that integrates the whole lifecycle of a solar power plant, starting with early stage development, all the way through construction and operations. And what's unique about what we're doing is we have part of the platform in the digital world and part of it in the physical world. Up until now, the PV (photovoltaic) industry has built one terawatt, [...] but looking into the future, we need to build at least 50 terawatts of PV and we need to do it in half the time it took to build one terawatt."
[3:56] EK: "In 2020, just a year after the company was founded, Terabase worked on the 800 megawatt Suraj One solar power plant in Qatar. It set the world record for the lowest cost solar power at around 1.5 cents per kilowatt hour. Today, Terabase has over 500 engineering procurement and construction companies, developers, and independent power producers using their platform. 10 gigawatts worth of solar projects have been supported by Terabase across 30 countries."
[28:58] MC: "The first goal for our platform is to digitalize everything. And sometimes I think of Amazon as an analogy, where Amazon brought digitalization to retail, [...] but Amazon does not exist as a purely software company. [...] So Amazon built highly efficient distribution centers to handle millions or billions of packages. And we saw the same thing in solar, where you can't just write software, give it to somebody and say, be more efficient, please. You had to actually integrate it with physical activity. And it's really the nature of building big infrastructure, where you have 20,000 containers of material coming from all over the world and it all has to be coordinated. So we said, we have to reimagine how things happen physically on the site through a combination of machines and automation and smart sensors."
[32:18] MC: "[Our business model] is a combination of software and services and some other integration work. We sell software [...] to model the energy of your solar plant, we've got a construction platform that's growing really quickly, we've already signed up over two gigawatts of projects that are being managed in our construction digital system, which is more of a traditional software and services model. And then we build power plant control systems, talking to the grid, talking to the battery, and the PV plant and that's kind of a software, services, and hardware integration."
[34:33] MC: "What I think is going to happen is that you're going to continue to see fast growth with grid connected solar plants. Of course, batteries are a growing component of that. [...] You can even use solar at night, which some politicians don't think you can do. But beyond that, I think we're going to see humongous growth in hydrogen [...] as an energy carrier, but also hydrogen as a feedstock into making fertilizers, running industrial processes like steelmaking. I think we're at the just baby stages of what's going to be perhaps the biggest consumer of PV at some point in the future. [...] But those could be off grid systems, so systems that are totally different from what we know today. And then I think you're gonna see things like direct air capture and just anywhere you need electrons."
[46:17] MC: "In a decade, I'd like to see the company making a contribution at the terawatts scale. I think the market is going to be at that scale. [...] And I want us to be on the cutting edge of innovation. When people think about solar innovation, I want them to think about us. [...] There's no speed, which is too fast. We need to go much faster and the way to do that is with innovation."