For its 10th cohort, the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN²) formed an all-demonstration group where each participant would scope and perform a demonstration of their technologies as part of the program.
The IN² startups will complete their demonstrations over the next year or two, helping them in their goal to see their technologies gain market acceptance. Giving each startup a real-world opportunity for its technology backed up with technical assistance from NREL helps de-risk new customer acquisition by providing a concrete example of success.
For Principal Investigator Thibault Marzullo, the Community Energy Labs (CEL) project marked several beginnings. Having joined the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) only last February in the commercial buildings group, it was the first time Marzullo served as a PI on a project. It also marked a major step forward in getting technology out of the lab and into the world.
“CEL is proposing a new method for building controls with a novel framework,” Marzullo said. “These methods existed for the past 30 years now, but they were not successful because of the need to customize controls for each individual building, so they never got out of the lab. What CEL proposed is that rather than having the building operator hire someone to come to their building, they are centralizing the controls for it. CEL hosts the controller on their servers and monitors them, which allows them to more or less use the same controller on each building.”
For CEL founder and CEO Tanya Barham, it is important that she is sure they are doing a good job.
“I’m a pessimist by nature. If I see a theoretical path, I will take it, but I don’t necessarily believe it will work until my team and I have done it ourselves,” Barham said. “However, the data is looking pretty encouraging to me from our first sites. The demonstration’s really going to help us show how our algorithms perform in a variety of locations. It’s very exciting.”