To move the needle of climate change, it will take buy-ins from the industrial sector. And Skyven Technologies is looking to help by showing industrial plant operators cost-saving, customizable solutions to reduce carbon emissions.
The Dallas-based climate tech startup focuses on decarbonizing heat emitted from industrial plants, analyzing sites and deploying a range of sustainable solutions. Now, with the pandemic making in-person site visits more difficult, Skyven is looking to AI to build a front-end engineering platform, aided by a $1.1 million grant from the California Energy Commission.
“We feel that change is coming. We feel it in the air, and I hope that others do too,” Inbal Nachman, director of strategic marketing and government relations at Skyven, told NTX Inno. “Customers want to change; they want to do better. It’s hard sometimes to see the answer, and that’s where we come in.”
When Skyven first launched in 2013, the company was focused on using its proprietary smart solar thermal mirror array to help facilities reduce fossil fuel consumption. However, as the company visited more facilities, it realized each plant presented unique ways to decarbonize. Now Skyven is focused on finding the best solution for each facility, whether that tech comes from them or another startup.
“Essentially, what we’re doing selecting assessing and understanding bespoke industrial facilities and building a decarbonization path for them that is both profitable and can significantly reduce emissions,” Nachman said. “What we started with as a company was to produce the solar panels, but… we realized there are many different ways to achieve the mission that we’re aiming towards, which is to just reduce fossil fuel consumption.”
Nachman said one of the most significant barriers to entry for industrial plants to decarbonize is the high upfront design and implementation cost. So, Skyven works with facilities, paying for the initial costs of analysis, design and implementation, then charging them for the BTUs the project saves once operational. The company said its projects could help keep facilities an average of between $200,000 and $5 million.
“What we did was take a hard look at all those barriers and built a company around breaking those barriers down,” Nachman said.
With the development of its AI platform, Skyven will be able to scale significantly, Nachman said. Once built out, it will be able to handle much of the front-end work Skyven would typically do on-site and in-person, analyzing the site, as well as the technologies available to solve the site’s specific needs.
“The AI will learn to ask the right questions, to gather the right type of information to propose holistic solutions that save… plant operators money,” Nachman said.
Building the AI platform is one of several projects Skyven has been working on. The company recently completed a project supplying the Big Brush Car Wash in Dallas with carbon-free water heaters, using a next-generation version of its solar array. While not the largest project, Nachman said it demonstrates other car wash operators’ ability and marks the launch of a smart metering platform that helps Skyven track and report emissions at the site. The company is also installing an emissions-free heating system at Cornell University as part of its climate action plan.
The company has also installed its technology at Copses Farms in New York after winning a $1 million grant at the state’s 76West Clean Energy Competition in 2017. In total, Nachman said the company has received about $4.6M in grant funding and about $1.5 million in seed and pre-seed funding from backers like MassChallenge, The Southwest Angel Network and the Koffman Southern Tier Incubator.
While shutdowns and social distancing measures, especially when the pandemic first hit the U.S., Skyven found it difficult to get inside facilities to conduct analyses. But with the new AI platform on the way and with recent trends emerging in the industry, Nachman said she sees demand for sustainable technology increasing. Part of that she attributes to large companies like Apple and Microsoft and governments taking steps towards sustainability. She also added that many industrial facilities are looking to “build back better” as they grow and ramp up production.
“What I’d like to do with Skyven is really help people feel less overwhelmed and show them that there is hope, there is a path to a future in which we are living sustainably and equitably with our environment and with our surroundings,” Nachman said. “COVID, in general, has, from our perspective, really catalyzed industries to take a hard look at how they’re running their facilities.”