Solar energy is the renewable success story of our time. In the last decade, it’s become 10x cheaper and it’s one of the fastest growing energy classes today with solar panel installed capacity set to surpass all other produced forms of energy by 2027. Solar photovoltaic alone is forecast to provide more than half of renewables growth in global power capacity by 2026.
But there’s a big problem with solar that isn’t often talked about. We’re creating new energy within an old-energy infrastructure, thus carrying the problems of yesterday into the future. Today, a huge chunk of solar energy potential is wasted due to grid inefficiency, lack of predictability, or difficulty in trading solar energy. Solving these problems would truly unleash the potential of solar, making it not only cheaper, but also a decentralised source of greater wealth equality – enabling anyone with solar panels to trade their excess energy.
“The biggest challenge for this kind of energy is that the grid is based on a model that is 100 years old and is based on the mindset that this is centralised energy,” says Tinia Co-founder Radu Puchiu, “the big change is that we can produce energy in local grids, so there’s a huge transformation the grid needs. There’s a study that says that up to 80% of the potential of renewable energy is going to be wasted in the coming years due to the grid.”
Puchiu co-founded the Romania-based cleantech startup Tinia – named after the Etruscan mythological God of the sky – to unlock solar’s potential as a force for environmental and social justice as well as address the problems with grid inefficiency.
“It all started with a discussion about ‘inventing’ a currency for energy transactions, soon we realised that an operating system is needed – that was probably the turning point,” explains Puchiu.
The idea became reality when the co-founding team came together: “we complete each other and work as a team – it makes it easy to progress rapidly. It’s Florin Lung’s entrepreneurial energy, with Ovidiu Marian’s high-level technical knowledge and Sandu Babasan’s operational agility. I bring more of a strategic perspective with my background in the government, coordinating strategies and policies in the Prime Minister’s Office. It is where I was in close contact with sustainability policies, from UN SDGs to EU policies and fund schemes. I strongly believe we have the right solution at the right time,” says Pichiu.
Tinia’s solution consists of two key components: data-collecting hardware that is mounted on every solar panel, and an IoT, AI and blockchain-based platform that takes data from the solar panel and makes transactions possible.
With this proprietary hardware-software, AI, and blockchain platform, Tinia gives all actors connected to the electrical grid the possibility to securely and transparently transact their surplus energy as well as maximise the efficiency of solar energy production. “We aim to become the operating system for distributed energy resources. From residential to solar farms, we help solar energy producers make money out of their unused energy with more efficient systems that speed up the transition to green energy and a sustainable future worldwide,” says Pichiu.
To do this, he explains that Tinia’s tech tackles three crucial solar energy pain points.
Predictability is needed for solar farm grid operators, because not knowing how much energy they will be producing significantly limits their business potential. Tinia provides high-level predictability by collecting and reading data at a granular level with hardware placed on every solar panel that collects data on Watts produced, temperature, weather, and the angle of the panel. This granular data is sent to the operating system from each panel, and with the help of AI, Tinia adds climate data, pollution data and other data that makes sense in terms of successfully forecasting output levels. The ability to collect and analyse this level of granular data goes one-step further than most existing solar solutions and is a key differentiator.
Right now, a green certificate is just a convention. It says somebody produced some energy and somebody used that energy, but if you look in detail, you can’t tell whether or not the same energy was reported as used by two or three other companies. To solve this, Tinia creates a blockchain-based green certificate guaranteeing trust in every transaction.
There is a huge gap between the current centralised grid model and the capability of solar energy solutions as a decentralised form of energy. To solve this, Tinia’s operating system makes it possible for anyone who can produce solar energy to transact and trade locally. This community-driven solar solution makes more sense in terms of energy efficiency – less energy is wasted as it travels long distances across the grid. Tinia makes it possible to redesign the way we produce and consume energy at the community level.
Tinia has achieved proof of concept with its tech validated by the Technical University in Cluj, the Political University in Bucharest and via top international professors in the field of energy including Ami Elazari, Founder of Millennium Renewables who boasts 29 patents in the photovoltaic industry.
It’s now taking its solution to three living labs, including a collaboration with the US Department of Energy, as well as looking for investors: “we partnered with KPMG for a detailed ten-year business plan for growth, says Puchiu. We see three rounds of investment in the next two years to bring our solution to the market. Implementing the solution in three living labs this year will also bring validation to our model in different geographies and conditions.”
The residential solar market is Tinia’s primary market entry point: its proprietary platform allows for multiple monetisation models such as: subscription, one-off sales and licensing. It’s a resilient model with diversified uncorrelated revenue streams, highly scalable to international markets. The residential solar market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 8% between 2020 and 2050, reaching 240 million households relying on solar energy by 2050.
The potential impact of Tinia’s work is significant. Although solar energy market momentum has caused snowballing growth, it’s growth that’s largely based on old centralised models.
But what renewable energy represents is a unique opportunity to democratise one of the most precious and valuable resources we have – energy. Renewables can tackle the injustice of wealth inequality by giving anyone with solar panels the ability to generate income by trading energy. By enabling individuals to trade their excess solar energy, Tinia is empowering people to actively participate in the renewable energy market and benefit financially from the green revolution.
For Tinia’s co-founding team, this vision of clean, secure, predictable and democratised energy is a future worth fighting for: “solar energy is not expensive, it’s cheap, but we have to use it wisely,” says Pichiu. “Using it wisely involves a mindset revolution in the customers and the grid operators to understand that there’s a different system needed.
“We don’t need to reinvent the grid and invest in new infrastructure, we need to reinvent the model with a data layer and an ability to transact locally.”
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