Many medium-sized businesses that consume large amounts of electricity may want to shrink their reliance on fossil fuels by committing to using solar or wind power. But their needs are often beyond what their local utility can provide from fully renewable sources.
A Seattle startup has launched a new online marketplace to address these issues and support the growth of clean energy developments, by matching smaller investors with projects that meet their needs.
Large corporations such as Microsoft and Google will invest directly, typically committing to buying all of the power from a new solar or wind farm. They get it at a fixed rate in exchange for a long-term investment.
But most companies and organizations are not big enough to back an entire project. And brokering the deals can be so complex that only the biggest entities can manage them.
To combat that problem, Bryce Smith founded LevelTen Energy.
“So buyers can come in, browse the 900 projects or so that are in the marketplace, they can access deep analytics on those projects and really understand risk and value,” Smith said.
Smith says the aim is to simplify the process of tapping into renewable energy and making it more transparent. He says the marketplace allows smaller investors to pay for just part of a large wind or solar project, but can still offer them economies of scale and fixed rates for electricity from renewable sources.
Venture capitalists have bet $7.5 million in support of LevelTen. Among its advisors is longtime clean energy consultant Rob Harmon, who could hardly contain his excitement about the opening of the new exchange.
“Companies all over the country are clamoring for renewables,” he said. “They want the fixed-price benefits, they want to help build out the renewable infrastructure that the country needs, they want to fight climate change, they want to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions.”
Harmon expects hundreds of new investors to get into the market now, thanks to LevelTen. More investors will enable more projects to be built.
“Wind and solar are two of the largest growing portions of the economy right now. And people want that to continue. So what you need in order to get markets to scale is you need functioning marketplaces, where buyers and sellers can connect. And there really hasn’t been one of those, until now,” he said.