Cool Earth Solar, Livermore
Cool Earth Solar (Cool Earth) is an innovative start-up company whose fundamental technology uses an inflatable plastic film to concentrate sunlight onto a photovoltaic (PV) solar cell. With these concentrators, Cool Earth PV cells generate over 1,000 times the electricity of non-concentrated PV cells.
In addition, Cool Earth is developing a complementary technology – a solar meteorological station (met station) that provides highly accurate measurements of solar radiation at a low price point and with minimal maintenance. A network of these inexpensive met stations produces the data required to develop the highly accurate solar generation forecasts needed by utilities, solar operators, and government agencies such as NOAA.
With both the concentrator and met station technologies proven in early field prototypes, Cool Earth faced the challenge of deploying systems at a scaled demonstration site, and ultimately entering the marketplace. With tight budgets, Cool Earth needed grants that fit into the product development schedule.
In order to improve the quality of their grant applications, Cool Earth reached out to SBDC experts for advice and mentoring in this process.
In addition, Cool Earth sought assistance in improving their go-to-market strategies and tactics, specifically in how to engage with potential partners and first customers.
Cool Earth Solar was fortunate to have met Charles Eason and Gerry Barañano at an iHub seminar on Small Business Innovation Research Grants from the federal government.
After numerous consultations with both SBDC and TFG consultants, Cool Earth significantly improved the quality of their grant application both for SBIR and other granting organizations.
In addition, Gerry Barañano significantly enhanced Cool Earth’s go-to-market efforts for the met station and forecasting business.
Cool Earth Solar won two $150,000 SBIR Phase I grants from the U.S. Department of Energy. The first one was granted in 2012 to show the feasibility of Cool Earth’s concentrated-photovoltaic technology using innovative optics and multi junction solar cells. This allowed Cool Earth to develop a field-deployable prototype.
The second $150,000 SBIR Phase I, funded in February 2013 was for developing a medium concentrating system that uses more commonly available silicon solar cells.
Cool Earth also won a $1,732,000 grant from the California Energy Commission to develop and deploy 100kW of solar concentrators; erect 12 met stations; and develop algorithms to convert data from the met stations into solar resource forecasts. This will allow Cool Earth met station customers, such as utilities, to optimize management of the electrical grid. Commercial clients may also combine this information with smart building software to improve building energy management. Cool Earth will be working with Lawrence Livermore National Labs (LLNL) to develop the complex algorithms for the accurate solar forecasts required by potential customers.
"Chuck Eason’s knowledge and experience with SBIR grants has been instrumental in our ability to win both SBIR Phase I grants. With his continued assistance, we hope to win Phase II awards and Phase III awards with both these grants. Gerry Barañano encouraged us to reach out to LLNL and develop that relationship. In addition, he prompted us to write a white paper geared to first customers that became the body of the grant proposal to the California Energy Commission. We owe much of our success with these grants to the experience, knowledge and cheerful assistance of these two gentlemen."