Wind Analytics is everything an energy firm isn’t supposed to be.
The startup firm is new, small in scale, focused on leveraging distributed generation, funded by venture capital and headquartered in an icily cool part of New York City’s Brooklyn Borough. In an industry dominated by behemoth established players built on the hub-and-spoke model of centralized fossil fuel energy production distributed over vast physical footprints, Wind Analytics differences make it the anomaly that could just be the industry’s data-driven future.
The firm’s walls are hung with whiteboards covered in inscrutable calculations, speaking to the power of the original algorithms that are central to Wind Analytic’s unique proposition.
The Eureka Moment
Started in 2008 with current CEO Russell Tencer as its single employee, Wind Analytics originally was intended to help build urban wind turbines backed by a grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).
The issues of urban small-scale wind were like those that bedevil “small wind industry” projects everywhere, Russell Tencer said in a recent interview with Breaking Energy at Wind Analytics loft-style offices in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge.
As Tencer and his first employees began searching for data that would help them best locate and orient the commissioned windmill, they kept coming up dry, and it wasn’t long before their own spreadsheet was the source of answers on optimal small wind mill location for other companies.
“It turns out you can’t have a great turbine business without a tool like this,” Tencer said. It wasn’t long before the algorithims built on the data collection had become the obvious business.
Based on its long wind resource data sets and proprietary algorithms, Wind Analytics takes the wind data where it exists and extrapolates accurately to where the turbine needs to be built.
“You pay us to tell you what the wind resource is,” Tencer said, although the firm will give potential customers a basic “wind class” reading on a property’s potential wind power capacity before it enters discussions on a more detailed wind resource analysis.
The firm also works with California-based wind turbine distributor TALCO Electronics to make the necessary equipment supplier introductions and, more broadly, seeks to be an integral part of taking customers from initial interest in distributed generation on their property to actually generating electricity.
Freshly Minted Graduate
Wind Analytics grew rapidly and graduated into its new office recently after graduating from the start-up incubator space New York Accelerator for a Clean and Renewable Economy, better known as NYC ACRE. Until February 2011 the firm was still very much in research and development phases, but is now getting business development under way, Tencer said.
Challenges abound for a small, start-up energy data business, Tencer admitted. Financing is a constant effort as the company grows following its initial venture capital funding, as is continually finding new talent and being sure potential customers understand the value of the company’s offering.
“The small wind industry has been a cottage industry all the way up to today,” Tencer said. “Policy and public sentiment has built around renewables in general, and we’re part of the professionalization of the [small wind] industry that’s stemming from that.”
Public policy is a major component of the small wind industry today and part of Wind Analytics’ standard review of any project includes review of state renewable energy incentives and whether local utilities have net metering programs.
But Tencer points out that industry has to learn to live without subsidies eventually, and that the renewables sector has to push case studies that demonstrate the viability and value of renewable fuels.
“Once we’ve proved that, then there is no reason not to invest heavily in renewables during this transition period as we look for a eventual end to subsidies … [amid] falling cost structures and growing profitability,” Tencer said.