Wind energy certificate startup expands into solar

Service gives utility customers “easy and affordable way for people to support renewable energy.”

Chicago clean energy startup Hero Power is expanding its renewable energy certificates program from wind into solar as well. More after today’s tech headlines…

Today’s headlines:

🌞 SOLAR: Argonne National Laboratory is developing technology to cost effectively monitor birds’ interactions with solar infrastructure. A combination of computer vision and artificial intelligence will collect data on what happens when birds fly past, perch on, or collide with solar panels. (Argonne National Laboratory)

💰 FUNDING: Faraday Technology in Englewood, Ohio, is the sole Midwest small business in the group of nine to receive a collective $3 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop and commercialize technologies to protect the environment. This is the second round of EPA funding for Faraday, which will use the resources to develop electrochemical extraction and remediation of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in soils as well as to develop electrochemical treatment of wastewater and landfill leachate streams contaminated with PFAS. (EPA)

🤝 PARTNERSHIP: Johnston, Iowa-based fintech company Growers Edge and agricultural artificial intelligence company Arva Intelligence are partnering on data-backed solutions that reduce farmers’ risk of implementing new technologies to boost efficiency, sustainability, and profitability. (news release)

Now, more on Hero Power

The digital clean energy platform launched in 2018 and started serving customers in November 2019 “as an easy and affordable way for people to support renewable energy,” said co-founder and CEO Ty Benefiel. Until this spring, the business focused on providing renewable energy certificates for wind energy, but now it has expanded into the solar sector with its new solar share program.

THE TECHNOLOGY: Northern Illinois residents served by utility ComEd can sign up for Hero’s program. Hero buys electricity from the energy market and every time a participant pays their electric bill, it matches 100% of the electricity with green energy certificates; a portion of the money is sent to a wind farm. The consumer does not pay anything above their regular utility bill charges. The new solar share program brings together customers who have financial means but no ability to install solar panels on their homes with people without the financial means who want to install solar.

THE IMPACT: Hero Power helps to get more solar power into the energy grid and helps utility customers lower their carbon footprint by being more energy efficient. Solar share program subscribers get points in return for their monthly subscriptions that can be redeemed for items including smart thermostats, energy efficiency products, and gift cards. The subscriber-funded solar panels are installed on recipients’ roofs for free, and 10% of the power generated goes toward offsetting their electric bill. “Our whole goal with everything we do is to help promote ways to combat climate change,” Benefiel said. “We’re trying a multi-front effort to educate, engage, and empower people to make the right decisions on how to combat climate change.”

KEY CHALLENGE: The pandemic has slowed or stalled solar installations nationwide. Benefiel notes the need to get the power grid to 100% renewables by the end of the decade to meet climate action goals, but right now only 17% of the grid is renewable energy. The pandemic’s impact could hinder progress toward achieving that goal. “We can’t afford to take a step back. With the solar share program we hope to really speed up the time it takes to get enough residential solar installed to meet the 100% renewable energy goals by end of this decade.”

WHAT’S NEXT: Hero Power’s goal for the remainder of this year is to have 25 solar projects in the Chicago area that are funded by people across the country. It also aims to fund 100 million kW hours of clean electricity with the wind program.

Do you know of other Midwest businesses using technology to improving access to renewable energy? Send news tips, press releases, and feedback to katie@centered.tech or connect on Twitter @centereddottech.

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