Photo voltaic is without doubt one of the cleanest types of power, and the EU is set to ensure it taps the giant ball of nuclear fusion in the sky to cut back its dependence on fossil fuels. Certainly, as a part of the REPowerEU plan, the European Fee is contemplating a path to introduce guidelines that may mandate set up of rooftop photo voltaic power panels on most new and public and industrial buildings by 2026.

However not all nations in Europe get plenty of daylight. You’d suppose Spain can be large on photo voltaic power era because it’s one of many sunniest nations in Europe — peak sun hours in Spain put it on par with the U.S. West Coast, in any case. Nevertheless, Spain nonetheless lags behind Germany or the Netherlands when it comes to put in home photo voltaic panels, which may have been partly resulting from a historic “sun tax“, a tax on photo voltaic installations, that the nation scrapped solely in 2018. A number of years on, some startups are lastly taking steps to take advantage of this chance.

Barcelona-based SolarMente, goals to show photo voltaic installations right into a mainstay of Spanish homes. Its CEO and co-founder, Wouter Draijer, informed For Millionaires that he was spurred to start out the corporate when he flew to Barcelona and had a chicken’s eye view of how few Spanish rooftops had photo voltaic panels in comparison with his residence nation, The Netherlands. He teamed up with Victor Gardrinier, a French nationwide who studied at HEC Montreal and Stanford, to start out the corporate.

Draijer stated the corporate began off as an installer of photo voltaic panels in Spain, however after the pandemic, it determined it ought to supply a photo voltaic power administration system. In hindsight, that was most likely a sensible transfer, contemplating the panel set up market is already lined by specialised firms, and the falling price of panels may make DIY efforts extra engaging for householders. It additionally has a couple of startups to compete with, together with Lumio Solar, which gained essentially the most sustainable startup award at Madrid’s South Summit 2023, and Tornasol, whose kits could be put in on balconies and paid for in installments by means of BNPL platform SeQura.

“Photo voltaic isn’t a product,” Draijer stated, explaining why most Spaniards can’t or simply don’t need to pay upfront for photo voltaic panels. What he means is that folks care extra about what panels can do for them moderately than proudly owning them.

That’s why SolarMente affords subscription-based power administration providers, which embrace putting in photo voltaic panels with out upfront prices. And as a substitute of focusing on individuals who stay in flats, the corporate prefers to promote to particular person homes as a result of it’s simpler from a regulation standpoint, and likewise as a result of the chance is greater, Draijer stated.

“We begin with photo voltaic, however most of our prospects can come again to us as a result of we analyze their knowledge, and we put a battery and EV charger, a warmth pump, after which we begin managing that power.”

Not too long ago, the Y Combinator alum added actor Leonardo DiCaprio to its cap desk, changing into his first funding in Spain.

Photo voltaic arbitrage

Administration of how a lot power is consumed and when is a should with photo voltaic, as a result of, as Gardrinier explained in an X thread again in 2023, “there’s an arbitrage between the worth at which households purchase power from the grid and the worth at which households promote power again to the grid.”

Gardrinier informed For Millionaires that the arbitrage was what impressed him to deal with the corporate’s power administration, and he was initially thinking about seeing how households with photo voltaic panels may commerce their photo voltaic power with friends on the blockchain.

That curiosity helped SolarMente win a blockchain-focused hackathon and likewise to launch a virtual battery service, however the subsequent step of the startup’s journey doesn’t contain full-on buying and selling. As a substitute, the startup desires to allow householders to optimize their power consumption with an excellent app that helps them determine when to devour or promote the power the photo voltaic panels generate.

Of the staff, Gardrinier can be essentially the most intently concerned with fundraising, and gave some context on SolarMente’s financing to this point: “As I like to think about it, with each spherical you derisk your organization and your staff a bit of bit extra. So with our YC spherical, the primary $2 million seed spherical, with a really fundamental staff, we confirmed that photo voltaic may possibly work in Spain. After which we did a a lot larger spherical final 12 months of principally debt; we constructed a huge debt structure to finance our photo voltaic installations. And with that we wished to show which you could supply photo voltaic as a subscription service on the worth of your health club membership, and make it democratized.”

DiCaprio’s newly introduced funding is an element of a bigger seed spherical of fairness financing centered on getting SolarMente the place it must be to boost a Collection A. “We’re utilizing this spherical to actually energy our tremendous app for residence power,” Gardrinier stated.

Movie star endorsement

Though that is DiCaprio’s first funding in Spain, the actor has been investing in tech startups since at the very least 2011. He has additionally been famously vocal about local weather change, to which he known as consideration in his acceptance speech on the 2016 Oscars ceremony.

Not the entire actor’s investments should do with local weather and inexperienced tech, however sustainability is a theme throughout a lot of these, which embrace AllBirds, Past Meat and styrofoam substitute firm Cruz Foam. For SolarMente, it additionally helped that one in every of their summer time 2021 YC batchmates, water danger administration platform Waterplan, was already in contact with DiCaprio.

Draijer and Gardrinier finally met DiCaprio, Gardrinier stated, and “each time we mentioned the enterprise and imaginative and prescient for power transition, [DiCaprio] would put up his cellphone and present us one of many initiatives he’s engaged on — decentralized storage, and so on.”

It probably helped that SolarMente’s strategy wasn’t completely new to the actor. DiCaprio beforehand invested in Bright, a startup that works on putting in solar energy in houses and companies throughout Mexico. Similar to SolarMente, it graduated from Y Combinator, and in July 2023 raised a $31.5 million Series C.

Might Shiny and SolarMente companion in the future? We’d say possibly. However first, SolarMente desires to additional broaden throughout Spain, the place its subscription photo voltaic supply simply turned accessible nationwide, Draijer informed For Millionaires.

Contemplating how sunny Spain is and the way underequipped it nonetheless is, there’s little question that SolarMente has room to develop. Whereas its deal with particular person houses makes it a considerably “upscale” providing, it may well nonetheless play an element in lowering the stress that fluctuating power costs have brought about to Spanish households. As a bonus, its strategy may additionally play a task in facilitating EV adoption, one other space through which Spain has room for improvement.