It’s commonly held that solar panels need as much sun as they can get. That’s true, but only up to a point, as heat and other hazards can become a serious problem beyond that point, and solar panels can degrade pretty quickly.
SmartHelio wants to help prevent that from happening. The startup uses AI tech to measure live data (current, voltage, weather parameters) from solar plants, and offers suggestions for fixes when a solar array starts underperforming. The company has just raised $5 million to scale its product.
“Every summer, my parents would bring my brother and me to our ancestral village in India, which didn’t have electricity. The lack of good governance meant that it took a long time for the village to get electricity. This is what sparked my interest in decentralized energy solutions that don’t require external intervention,” Govinda Upadhyay, CEO at SmartHelio told TechCrunch.
“I am always thinking about how we can accelerate the adoption of clean energy. As I interacted with solar companies in India, Europe, and Africa, I realized that many of these companies were struggling with the performance of their solar plants, often due to the late detection of faults. This inspired me to start SmartHelio,” he added.
Upadhyay met his co-founder Neeraj Dasila, who was working at the energy department in the Indian government at the time. His journey matches Upadhyay’s in that he grew up in a remote village in the Himalayas that had little infrastructure.
The company is wading into a rapidly developing industry, but it has remarkably few direct competitors — the thrust of software/AI companies seems mostly focused on where to install solar or making solar more accessible. Glint Solar, for example, raised $3 million earlier this year for its AI-powered analytics tool to figure out where to build solar plants. Aurora Solar is in a similar space and closed a $250 million round in mid-2021. On the installation front, recent funding rounds include Enact Systems’ $11 million Series A, Zolar’s $105 million Series C, and Project Solar’s $23 million haul.
The funding round
SmartHelio was part of the W22 batch of Y Combinator and this round saw the incubator participating, in addition to a flurry of other investors from its native Switzerland and the U.S., including Collab Fund, Serpentine VC, ACE & Company, Pegasus Tech Venture, Gaingel VC, Soma Capital, and a number of angel investors.