No doubt, a few eyebrows were raised when Gamesa, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of utility-scale wind turbines, recently invested in a company that builds micro-solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and mobile microgrids that are being deployed in Afghanistan by the U.S. military. This is rightly so, since it shows that Gamesa is looking at the small picture and seeking to broaden its horizons within the clean energy technology continuum.
Gamesa’s investments in SkyBuilt Power, which has also attracted support from the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) venture capital fund, In-Q-Tel, appear to be an extremely canny move, given that this company has taken the concept of micro power to whole new levels. In fact, products include solar blankets that can literally fit into a suitcase and could be carried on an airplane!
For its part, Gamesa is determined to ensure its long-term growth both in the wind turbine supply business, where it just now launching even larger wind turbines for the burgeoning offshore market in Europe’s North Sea, but also in a broad array of other renewable and sustainable technologies. To channel this new strategy, Gamesa has established Gamesa Venture Capital, a corporate venture capital fund, through which it will invest up to 50 million euros in the next five years to buy stakes, initially minority holdings, in startup or growth companies engaged in the development of technologies promising the highest potential for future growth. In return, Gamesa will offer the companies its market position, manufacturing, finance, and local supply chain to achieve greater market competitiveness. Perhaps after five years or so, Gamesa will consider taking the companies over as new business lines or as sources of enhanced value via spin-off sales.
Gamesa has targeted six key technologies for venture capital investments: ocean energy technologies such as tidal currents, next generation solar energy devices such as concentrated solar PV, energy storage to firm up variable renewables at the bulk and distributed level of service, green mobility options such as electric vehicles, energy efficiency, and off-grid micro-power. The first two investments related to the last category are a 28.7 percent equity stake in SkyBuilt Power and a 25 percent equity stake in WorldWater & Solar Technologies, both firms with solar PV products positioned for developing nations.
SkyBuilt Power is particularly interesting because of its sales channels with the U.S. military, a market that Gamesa is still trying to figure out. But with goals of obtaining 25 percent of total power supplies from renewables by 2025, the U.S. Department of Defense is obviously a good business target. Along with potential new business in the mobile military microgrid sector, which is also being looked at closely by military agencies in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and France, Gamesa believes micro-solar technologies have other intriguing applications.
“SkyBuilt Power could open the door to business with remote telecommunications sites initially interested in on-site solar PV, but perhaps also purchasing wind and storage technologies as a second stage,” acknowledged David Mesorero, director of Gamesa Venture Capital. “With the decline of feed-in tariff rates in Europe, I think Gamesa is seeking out new markets and game-changing technologies. We at SkyBuilt Power look at Steve Jobs and what he did to the laptop computer as a model. Our goal is to package instant solar and wind products that are dumber and dumber, plug-and-play systems ideal both for combat missions or village power in the developing world,” added David Muchow, President of SkyBuilt Power.
SkyBuilt Power’s portfolio is robust and in constant search of “transformational” elements. Among its current products are the following:
– SkyStation: Containerized system offering solar, wind, batteries, or other generators to be used for tactical operations centers, clinics, disaster relief, telecom power, and rapidly deployable micro-grid power
– SkyTrailer: Provides a mobile renewable power on trailers and can be set up in as little as 45 minutes
– SkySkid: Provides lightweight power on skids for remote communications and other uses
– SkyCase: A portable power station that fits into a case with high-efficiency solar blankets three times more efficient than any other product on the market
– SkyWater: Combines highly efficient water treatment technology with the mobile or fixed power solar systems
– SkyStructures: Insulated, fire resistant, panels that are rapidly deployable structures that feature renewable energy power systems designed to cut power use in the field
SkyBuilt is both a product purveyor and a system integrator, which makes it unique. The company’s impressive track record is to date been based on its portfolio of extremely modular solar PV products. While its portable solar PV products have obvious appeal for Forward Operating Base (FOB) mobile microgrids, the company is shifting market focus to stationary base microgrids, sensing a shift in priorities at the DOD with recently announced pullouts from Afghanistan. The investment by Gamesa will also allow the company to develop larger-scale projects.
As an integrator, the company’s forte is the ability to develop hybrid solutions, getting diverse technologies to work in concert as a system, the very essence of the microgrid vision. From small microgrid-in-a-suitcase for platoons, to larger scale solutions more relevant to a stationary base, SkyBuilt Power is building upon its work with Lockheed Martin and others to become a more expansive power service provider. Gamesa’s investments are critical to making this transition happen.
Article by Peter Asmus, appearing courtesy the Matter Network.