September 21, 2020

Terabase Investment in Pursuit of $0.01/kWh Solar Power Globally

September 21, 2020 / LinkedIn / – At SJF Ventures, we have a history of investing in the clean energy transition which is only becoming more important as we grapple with the magnitude of the climate crisis. We are thrilled to announce leading the Series A round at Terabase Energy as the next step in our climate investment journey.

Back in October 2015 we wrote ‘100% Clean Energy – The New Zero Waste’ following up on the sale of SJF portfolio company Nextracker to Flex for $330 million. Within the Flex platform, Nextracker has now deployed trackers on 35 GW of solar power plants globally, helping offset 53 million metric tons of CO2 to date. Nextracker followed prior SJF investments in groSolar (merged with EDF Renewables) to Community Energy, companies which have helped to drive down the cost of utility scale solar in the U.S. Community Energy has now developed solar projects adding up to nearly 2 GW in many emerging solar states outside of California including VA, GA, MN, UT, NC, PA, KY, NY, CO and others. At all three of these solar companies, we have recently seen the integration of energy storage in projects to make the solar power more firm and dispatchable. To help further drive down the cost of batteries, while enhancing their safety, SJF invested in Voltaiq, as we discussed in the 2018 article ‘Data for 100% Clean Energy Electrification.’

After investing in solar developers, EPCs, advanced solar and storage hardware and software, we see Terabase as a next step to continue our support of the clean energy sector. Terabase Energy is a solar software and digital solutions company, providing proprietary software, automation and digital deployment solutions for utility-scale solar projects globally. The company’s mission is to drive utility scale solar power prices below $0.01 per kWh, a price that would accelerate the displacement of fossil fuel generation.

Already, the cost of solar energy has become competitive with some conventional sources of generation. According to Lazard’s 2019 Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis, the cost of unsubsidized utility-scale solar generation tends to outcompete most natural gas power plants, and new-build, utility-scale solar is approaching the marginal cost of operating existing coal facilities. But to realize a 100% clean energy future, the cost of utility-scale solar would need to decrease even further to outcompete and fully displace fossil fuel generation, as well as to allow production of cost-effective green hydrogen. That’s why Terabase’s goal of $0.01 per kWh is so important.

Terabase’s modernized approach to solar power-plant optimization has already made major strides in addressing this cost issue. In Qatar, Terabase optimized a $0.01449 per kWh bid for an EPC partner, a record-breaking low cost for utility-scale solar. The company’s novel technology is working to solve a persistent problem in the solar industry–the stubbornly high “soft costs” associated with solar project development.

To date, most of the declining costs of solar can be attributed to plummeting hardware costs–the electricity price of utility solar declined 93% from $0.45/kWh in 2004 to $0.03/kWh in 2019 as the prices of PV modules, trackers and inverters dropped precipitously. The soft costs associated with solar development and deployment—development, financing, construction, and O&M costs—have remained stagnant. Against a backdrop of decreasing hardware costs, soft costs can now represent ~50% of total costs for a solar project.

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Terabase’s software platform digitizes and automates the lifecycle of the solar power plant, creating efficiencies in soft costs. The efficiencies realized include reduced capital cost, shorter construction periods, optimized technological selection, risk mitigation and overall lifecycle project efficiency managed through Terabase’s digital hub. This efficiency takes on a different significance in the utility-scale solar industry, where projects-in-development have grown considerably in size over the last few years. Now, utility-scale solar projects expand to thousands of acres, millions of solar panels and accompanying parts, and hundreds of thousands of hours of labor to install. In planning solar projects of such large magnitudes, the ability to harness software, automation and “digital twin” technology creates a big market opportunity in a sector that has been managed historically by disparate, dated paper or software systems.

Customers using Terabase software already operate in over 28 countries, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Australia, the US, UAE, Morocco and Tunisia. In some of these countries, solar development is still in its infancy. Terabase’s technology helps to accelerate the rate and sophistication of solar development in these markets. The platform makes it simpler to develop solar virtually anywhere, democratizing access to advanced, renewable energy.

Terabase is led by an impressive founding team of talented, visionary solar industry experts. The company was co-founded by six former SunPower veterans, including Matt Campbell (CEO), Chris Baker, Amine Berrada, Dan Cohen, Pierre Gousseland and Thang Le. The team has been working together for many years. At SJF, we have made investments in other serial cleantech founding teams, like those at Community Energy and Nextracker. The team at Terabase has many qualities that are reminiscent of those successful teams. We are excited to be partners with such an accomplished group. Similarly, we are excited to co-invest with Powerhouse Ventures, City Light, and Trancoso Partners. Together, we look forward to the next phase of the journey in solar deployment and the decarbonization revolution.

Jacqueline Goodman and Dave Kirkpatrick, SJF Ventures