Here’s a little something for the cool stuff category; technology that can catalog the solar power potential of every rooftop in the world. David Levine and his company, Geostellar, are hoping to do just that.
Levine came up with the idea while working for an outfit called Lanworth, which predicts crop yields with satellite imagery. A Lanworth customer executive mused aloud how he’d like to be able tobetter control his company’s energy usage, and that’s when theproverbial lightning bolt struck Levine.
“The light went off immediately,” he said.
Levine gave notice at Lanworth and six months later Geostellar wasborn, with all the rooftops of the world spread out before them. As solar equipment becomes more affordable, a land grab for rooftop real estateis heating up. Prospectors, such as SolarCity and Sungevity, guaranteebuilding owners low electrical costs for the right to install panels and sell excess power back to the grid. Big utilities like AES, Next Era,Constellation Energy and Duke Energy can use the data, too, forprospecting commercial-scale solar sites.
Geostellar’s software is able to calculate a particular location’ssolar potential by using LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology, something that used to be accomplished manually, using a tape measure, a level, and a GPS unit. Users are able to enter an address or sort byneighborhoods for roofs based on size and energy potential. The LIDARtechnology uses lasers and infrared lights form low-flying airplanes.LIDAR then maps three-dimensional structures, which allows Geostellar to create a virtual world of shadows, slopes and solar hot spots.
Large customers are paying as much as $250,000 for an annualsubscription to Geostellar’s national maps and data. Regional accesswill only run you about $25,000 per year.
Levine, a former rocker with a group called Senator Flux, earned abachelor’s degree in philosophy from Yale. While on the road withSenator Flux, Levine earned extra dough editing economics books for theWorld Bank. This led to teaching himself programming when the World Bank asked him to assist in publishing the material on what was then ablossoming new technology – the Internet.
One project led to another and eventually to Geostellar. Today,Levine has $1.5 million in equity funding, some great programmers, and a definite cool idea.
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