One of Hawaii’s top entrepreneurs chose Independence Day weekend to announce his latest big idea: helping island businesses and households to get off the grid by integrating state-of-the-art battery storage with solar photovoltaic energy systems.
Henk Rogers built his fortune by flying to Russia to secure the rights to international game sensation Tetris. He went on to found gaming and mobile software companies (like Avatar Reality and Blue Mars), Blue Startups, Hawaii’s first technology venture accelerator, and the Blue Planet Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to advancing clean energy.
His latest venture taps into both his extensive technology background as well as his environmental advocacy.
An Associated Press report by Caleb Jones spread far and wide today, netting coverage across local media as well as from national and international news outlets. It profiled Rogers and his 6,000-square-foot Honolulu home, which has been off the grid for three years. Instead, it (and the two Tesla electric cars parked in front) draws all its power from the sun.
Rogers is now taking the lessons he learned at home and bringing them to the masses with Blue Planet Energy Systems. And the new company’s debut product is Blue Ion, a self-contained energy storage system that includes batteries and specialized hardware and software.
(Rogers’ Blue Planet Energy Systems is not to be confused with this Illinois company or this company in the U.K., and Blue Ion is not the same as this marketing company in South Carolina. Blue is a popular color.)
At the heart of the new offering is a high-power, long-life Lithium ion batteries manufactured by Sony. Rather than using conventional lithium cobalt oxide, the new batteries use olivine-based phosphate cathodes, which mean they are less expensive, run cooler, and contain no potentially carcinogenic cobalt.
Each battery unit can store 1.2kWh and weighs 17 pounds, and the number of units installed depends on the energy needs of the property. The Sony batteries can handle more than 8,000 complete discharge cycles, or about 20 years of daily discharge, and come with a 10-year manufacturer warranty.
Blue Planet Energy Systems helps businesses or homeowners install and integrate the batteries into their existing PV systems (or can provide complete PV packages), and its special mix of hardware and software to manage the storage of electricity by day, and the use of battery power by night.
Battery storage is less common than “net metering” setups, where facilities run on solar power and sell excess energy to utilities during the day, but still draw electricity from the power company at night. But with PV use growing rapidly and incentives from utilities drying up, batteries are making more sense. Earlier this year, Tesla — the company that makes the electric cars that Rogers drives — announced that it was getting into the battery business as well.
Blue Planet Energy Systems notes that its offering could be especially compelling to people living in areas where the utility says their grid is already saturated with PV systems. With a large enough system and a Blue Ion installation, there’s no need to wait for the power company to sort things out. And there are still federal and state tax credits as well as various financing options to help people make the jump.
Rogers’ new company, like many technology startups, has roots in a garage, and its larger vision is similarly no less modest than trying to change the world.
“If you’re going to clean up the world, first of all you have to clean your own room,” Rogers told the AP. “We’re going to end the use of carbon-based fuel, and that is my mission No. 1.”
For more information, visit the possibly temporary Blue Planet Energy Systems website.