SolarCasters, a One-Man Startup, Seeks Funding for Solar Power Forecasts
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his prediction software. He is able to run SolarCasters without other employees because of technological advances, he says. The core of SolarCasters is its proprietary prediction software, but “it’s a practical thing to do only because of the Internet,” Ihnen says. Otherwise, it would take a lot of people to put together satellite data and other information in ways usable by the program. Quickly compiling images and information from databases required much more manpower before advanced search software became available. Ihnen created his prediction program after previously developing software to model groundwater contamination in a previous, now-defunct company called Intellego.
Although he is looking for angel investors, Ihnen jokes that his company is currently “funded by loose change found in my sofa.” The Puget Sound area only has one small solar plant near Ellensburg, WA, which may explain the lack of investor interest. Ihnen says he finds the lack of interest in alternate energy sources among local investors disappointing—and he’s certainly not alone in this sentiment. If he cannot secure investment here, he said he may move the company elsewhere.
Americans are currently more invested in wind than solar power, Ihnen says. In fact, there is a company in Seattle, 3Tier, which predicts wind conditions the way SolarCasters does sun. (3Tier also does solar and hydro predictions, as Xconomy wrote about here and here.) Rather than viewing this as competition, Ihnen foresees a time when the two energy sources will work in tandem, with solar panels providing energy during the day, and wind farms picking up the slack at night. SolarCasters is already partnering with a wind prediction company, with an official announcement soon to come.
Now, after 30 straight days without rain (according to the official tally), perhaps Seattle investors will begin to rethink their stance on investing in solar power and related firms. But wherever the solar plants are, there would seem to be a need for a company like SolarCasters. “Solar companies need to know what energy is available in advance, and that’s what we do,” Ihnen says.