Solelia Greentech invents the Solar Bank
October 11, 2016
Solelia Greentech was established in 2011 and has since grown into Scandinavia’s leader for solar-powered electric-vehicle charging stations.
This Swedish start-up now wants to supply its customers with 100% solar power and is therefore ramping up to introduce the first demonstrator for its Solar Bank. Its CEO Per Wickman told us more.
How can you promise customers that the power on your charging stations is 100% solar?
We need to use two approaches: one involves the technology and the other is more conceptual. First, we designed communicating charging stations that can use the electricity generated by nearby photovoltaic panels (which may already be there or Solelia Greentech can fit them) before falling back on other options. The obvious question is how to match consumption and production (i.e. juggle the weather, the time of day or night, how many vehicles stop by, how much charge they need, how much power they consume, etc.). Batteries are an option but won’t always work for technical and economic reasons. So we decided to connect our charging stations to the grid and feed all the power they don’t use into it. That’s the beauty of the system: all the electricity we feed into the grid is “deposited” in an account in our bank, SolarBank – a new kind of bank that uses kWh as its currency. Then, when the charging station needs to consume power from the grid, that power is “deducted” from its account.
That sounds a lot like the green energy certificates we can see more or less anywhere in Europe…
Yes, our system uses GoOs (Guarantees of Origin) as provided in a European Directive. But SolarBank does a lot more than sell certificates: it is a proper marketplace that anyone generating solar kWh can join. And, for example, they can decide that they will only buy local output or to adjust the power on their charging stations according to the available resources.
What is SolarBank’s business model?
That is the big issue in our business because the market is developing at a dizzying pace and there are many unknown variables we have no control over. So we need to build versatile technology into the system, and our business models need to be able to adjust over time and to different countries. We already know we will be asking our customers – principally municipalities and lessors/owners – to pay fees to set up the SolarBank. That said, we’re not yet sure what the best way to bill usage is, or how to size it. So we will be trying out several mechanisms on the demonstrator we are preparing in Sweden and Norway.
Tell us more about this project.
It is called Solar Charge 2020 and we are working on it in a consortium backed by the ERA-Net Smart Grid Plus European initiative. We are seven partners: two cities (Uppsala in Sweden and Tromsø in Norway), two parking companies, two universities, and us. The goal is to interconnect about 100 charging stations in each city with local photovoltaic power producers to test various technical and business approaches and identify synergies between the players. That way, we will try to charge vehicles with 100% solar power, and also increase the amount of photovoltaic electricity in the local energy mix or even relieve some of the pressure that electric vehicles put on the grid. We are planning to start the service in the spring of 2017.
Where else are you planning to develop?
We think the next country where our service could work well is Germany. We are looking for partners there with InnoEnergy, which is great at fine-tuning its support according to the stage we are at in our development. We know InnoEnergy’s network and credibility will fast-track our efforts to conquer Europe and we already have some very interesting contacts.
Solelia GreenTech in a nutshell:
References: Real estate companies, municipalities