Years ago, when Deirdre Lord told people at cocktail parties she was in the energy business, they would look at her vacantly and sidle to the other side of the room. No more. Now they want to hear what she has to say.
Others, such as Locus Energy, are using big data to drive greater energy efficiency. Locus monitors solar installations to help owners maintain and get maximum performance from them. From 1,500 installations three years ago, Locus is up to 35,000 today. In the future, Locus plans to use the millions of pieces of data it collects every hour to help system owners and managers make forecasts, manage risk and drive down costs.
"Solar naturally fluctuates every second, and enabling customers to assess that fluctuation through advanced algorithms and leverage an engineer's capabilities is a huge advantage," said Michael Herzig, Locus' founder and chief executive.
Scarce talent and money are also hurdles. Enertiv last year feared it might lose a key engineer, a foreigner who needed a hard-to-get H-1B visa. Locus Energy has most of its engineering staff on the West Coast, where it believes there's a deeper pool of engineering talent.