Here’s the basic idea behind startup Stem: install batteries at a building and use software to convert the building over to battery power (instead of using power from the grid) when energy from the power grid is expensive (like a hot Summer day). Large power companies seem to think it’s a good idea, and on Monday Stem announced that it’s raised $15 million from new investors including GE and Spanish power giant Iberdrola.
Stem was founded back in 2009 as Powergetics and it rebranded as Stem last year. The company launched its first battery and analytics system with a hotel in San Francisco a year ago, and now they’re working on installing about a megawatt of systems across Hawaii.
For Hawaii — and other regions with a lot of solar panel farms and wind farms coming online — Stem’s smart battery systems can also help stabilize the grid, ensuring power is available from the batteries when the sun goes down or the wind stops blowing. Stem’s software can work with any type of energy storage — like compressed air or pumped hydro — but batteries are the easiest to install at this point in urban areas.
Stem’s CEO Salim Khan thinks there’s a revolution happening at the edges of the power grid with new types of distributed energy options. Other startups like Noesis, Opower, Nest, Gridco and FirstFuel are using data analytics to make buildings run more efficiently. These are a new wave of smart grid companies that are turning to the cutting edge of IT, like machine learning, to make the power grid operate more like the Internet.