Sesame Solar sells clean energy nano-grids for disasters
Michigan-based startup Sesame Solar is producing what it claims is the world’s first fully renewable mobile nanogrid for natural disaster relief. Its units can be used as mobile communication and command centers, medical units, kitchens and even temporary accommodation. Systems can be ready for use within 15 minutes of arrival.
Most mobile units like these have been powered by diesel fuel, which emits carbon dioxide when burned, contributing to climate change.
But Sesame’s units have solar panels on top that fold out, giving the company its name – a reference to “open sesame”.
“The whole concept is that no fossil fuels are needed to be able to have days or weeks of energy autonomy after an extreme weather disaster, such as a hurricane, tornado or wildfire, or a disaster event. network outage in California…or a cyberattack, or whenever the network is down,” said Sesame co-founder and CEO Lauren Flanagan.
“We combine solar and battery storage, or we also have other renewable energy sources, we use green hydrogen as backup energy. And we can do small wind turbines if the conditions allow it,” said added Flanagan.
Sesame sells the systems for between $100,000 and $300,000, or more for larger installations like a full medical clinic. It has sold over 50 units since its launch last June. Its customers already include the US Air Force, as well as cable companies like Cox and Comcast.
“There have been 18 multi-billion dollar weather disasters in the United States in the past 18 months. And it’s rare that you find a company that already has revenue, that already has customers, that has already had a impact on the world and who did it on a shoestring budget,” said Vijay Chattha of VSC Ventures, one of the investors backing Sesame Solar.
Others include Morgan Stanley, Pax Angels and Belle Capital. The company has only raised $2 million so far, which may seem like very little for a company with such large potential. But Flanagan said revenue tripled last year and is expected to start again this year.
“The reason we haven’t raised a lot of capital is because we have revenue. I’m kind of an old school operator, I believe in adapting to the product market , find customers who will pay, iterate and improve it and try to run as close to break-even as possible, and then you have options, right?” she says.
One is a potential new business model where, rather than selling the units, the company would lease them. She wants to get FEMA on board with something like this, which she says would be a game-changer.
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