Electronics > Power/Renewable Energy/EV's

Looking for EE Partner(s) to start an open source hardware project / company

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No worries Bicurico, let me try to explain the rational for this projects a little bit more in depth. Sorry for the stream of words, it would be easier to do a live session. 

You can think this project as composed of 2 parts. The optimization part and the system part.

Let's start from the optimisation part.

The current set of systems out there are pretty dumb and not interoperable. This means usually two things 1) you get locked in with a provider that overcharge you for that (ie.: Viessman who's selling PV at 3x because they can assure you they will work with their heatpump), or 2) you are ending up wasting more energy (or paying more for it). 
What do I want to have instead? each component of your home (at least the big loads - heat pumps, batteries, ev chargers) can communicate between them, can learn they operation patterns (when do you charge, what temperature do you want when, and can be aware of their context (ie.: if today is very sunny). 

Additionally, I'm betting on the fact that big retail energy operators are moving towards a dynamic pricing to better model the cost of energy at wholesale (right now in UK the wholesale price can 10x during the day). Assuming that is correct, you will have the cost of energy from the grid to change during the day. The same 1kWh will cost you anything from 0.05 euro to 1 euro (ballparking here). 

If this intuition is correct, your ability to decide when it's a good idea to buy from the grid, or to consume from your self generated energy will be critical. Equally, when it's worth to charge your battery/evs and when not.

The best effort (consume as much locally when possible) is suboptimal even in basic existing scenario like the two tarriffs system we have in UK. 
(you can read more here: https://octoenergy-production-media.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/MADE_High_Level_Design_PassivSystems.pdf)
This is basic demand-side response done locally, with a system that can produce and store energy. My calculation (and few other papers out there) shows that you can cut cost (in the current pricing market) by ~30% on a 200$ monthly bill. 

What are the practical problems to do this: 1) there is little interconnectivity between systems. ie.: the battery rarely knows how much the Inverter is generating from PV. 2) even if they were all connected, the current optimization mechanisms are very rudimental. We are looking at very similar to best effort optimisation mechanisms, they don't have awareness of pricing, they don't have awareness of environment condition like occupancy, irradiance, and temperature, they don't have any understanding of the user behaviour. Sure you can probably hack something together and have your HomeAssistant do something more advance, but your average user doesn't know what Home Assistant is. 

Ideally my idea stops here. I could go to the big player out there and say 'hey, we can build a better world, what about you give me access to your protocols, maybe you implement 2-3 more interfaces to get additional information from your load / system component, and in exchange you can be part of a bigger effort to decarbonize the residential space' . 
In an ideal world, everyone would say 'sure' , and what would be left to do is to build a tiny hardware that connects everything, and the software on top. All of a suddent all the home, that have already PV would be 'smarter'. 
Unfortunately, it doesn't work in that way, because, as said before, there are interest in keeping systems closed, even if this offers a suboptimal experience to the user. 

This is were part 2 kicks in. 
If incentives are not alined, force them. 

If hardware is not interoperable, build it. Leverage the consumer demand to drive the offer. 
If I need to go into the business of building inverters, I'll go into the business of building inverters, until someone understand that they can copy my design, manufacturer cheaper, and start flodding the market with more hardware that is compliant with my first part of the idea. 

How do I get the consumer to want my type of hardware ? simply by saving them money. If I can give users a 60$/month margin on their bill that's 7200 in 10 years, at parity of hardware cost (most likely mine will be more expensive, but still within a price range that makes this convenient for the user).
And for the users that don't have a system like that (no PV, no battery, etc), the value proposition needs to be that their total energy bill (ideally heating + electricity) needs to be higher than the cost of the system, over a 10-15 years horizon. A system like the one that I envision is probably a 18.000$ (7kWh generation, 10kWh storage, heatpump, installation) , including a heat pump, which means, if you spend more than 140$ a month in electricity and heating, you are better of with my system. 

You are right that the end consumer will hardly be aware of this. And having the right channel (ie.: your utility company being the reseller) is critical to reach scale. 
My plan is to get 10.000 residential units buying into this, at which point the entire system becomes more appealing for a retail energy provider (as they can do proper demand side response)
How I get to the first 10.000 residential unit is the tricky part, but that is marketing / sales / and connection (a small redevelopment in suburban london, has usually 7000 units, so you just need 1 partnership). What is really hard is the fact that I'm not an EE. and without a partner EE on this, there is no hardware, and if there is no hardware there is no software, and if there is no software there is no prototype to show to prove all my points 

OP, your experience in running a business? tax, legal, regulatory compliance?

fund's for startup and unforeseen issues?

Sélection of a " partner" via a forum is unlikely to end well.

Finally 95% of all start-up business fail in first 5 years.

Just the ramblings of an old retired EE


Had 1 business before with a successful exit (sold it). Had few project started and killed within the first 2-3 months after reaching clarity on the details. did this both solo and with partners. 

I'm, in general, confident with running a business. I'm not confident in running a project like this by myself. Tax and legal are almost always outsourced. EE regulatory compliance is unknown to me.

My day to day work includes working on acquisitions and advising startups in the scaleup phase. I have access to capital and investor.Enough to give a ~10M runway to this before start making money (which I'm aware is not a lot).

I agree completely with you. I came here after running out of ideas. Coming from the software world there is little to no overlap with the EE community. I also feel the way people get to know each other is very different in the EE world compared to the software world.
I've also tried to tap into the local research center in EE at the main London engineering university, but again, they are used to work on big contract, and on pretty much advisory role.
Finally, I've been quite successful at getting in front of C-level in big electronic companies, but the lifecycle of their planning is incredibly long (5-years) and usually doesn't survive the leadership group. (For example I had an ongoing project with Schneider electric on this topic, which got canned after the CIO left). That's why I'm leaning towards a open source - ground up initiative.

ps.: interesting enough, Retired EE engineers would be the best fit for this project: experience, low concern about the risk, and (i guess) a lot of time to spare :D


--- Quote from: jonpaul on December 07, 2022, 04:57:36 pm ---Sélection of a " partner" via a forum is unlikely to end well.

--- End quote ---
Why? It is like dating. You won't find anyone unless you get 'out there'.

You can post your requirement to www.freelancer.com


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