Tigo Energy was founded in 2008, with a vision to improving the output of solar photovoltaic panels, and since then has raised $50 million and has expanded its solutions to include fire prevention. But Tigo is not satisfied acting only in the solar roofs and fields arena, but is also a pioneer in installing panels on building walls. The vision: solar energy for everyone!
The world is seeking out ways to connect to new energy sources, effective and clean ones. The most visible source of such energy is the sun. The extent of photovoltaic (PV) solar panel installations reached a record of 27.4 gigawatt in 2011 worldwide, a jump in 40% as compared with 2010 (according to the annual PV market report, 2012 Marketbuzz® which was published this past March in the Solarbuzz PV portal).
However solar panels are characterized by low efficiency, reaching an average of 12%-15% in the transition from solar energy to electrical energy. Therefore, one of the main challenges in this field is to improve the efficiency of the panels, and to this challenge two Israeli companies have risen: SolarEdge and Tigo.
TIGO was founded in 2008 by Sam Arditi (CEO) and Ron Hadar (President), both experienced entrepreneurs in the chip field. Tigo’s solutions improve panel efficiency by 20% on average, and the Company today offers solutions including management of the panels and fire protection.
Tigo has a longstanding relationship with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). It began with a BIRD Foundation project, within the framework of which Tigo installed panels on the walls of tall buildings, and continued on to DOE grants, the last of which was a half a million dollar grant, which can be added to previous grants totaling $4 million. This last grant was provided to Tigo to finalize the development of a Fleet Management and String Monitoring program. In essence this will be an improvement upon the Tigo product, which stretches its ability to increase efficiency of panels and the management of their operation to new heights.
One of the DOE grants was given for the development or arc detection and fire prevention. Arcing occurs when connections to the electric socket are not tight enough, and this is how many fires come about. Arc detection in due time enables the disconnection from electricity and the prevention of the potential fire. This phenomenon is well known in conventional electricity, and the U.S. government was interested in taking the existing knowledge in fire prevention from electricity and bringing it to the PV solar arena, and so the DOE asked Tigo to develop a product which would detect arcs and prevent fires in the PV arena, as a precaution.
Tigo’s abilities are based on the Company’s flagship product, the Optimizer, which first enabled the reduction of PV balance of system (BOS) costs using longer strings. The optimization which this component enables is the use of much longer strings, and with it greater flexibility in installations, so that more panels can be installed on any roof and at different angles, through the ability to address problems like shade, for example. How is this done? Shade on a panel results in low efficiency of the system, but Tigo’s Optimizer knows how to isolate the low-functioning panel so that it doesn’t harm the functioning of the whole string. Add to this the fire prevention capabilities of the arc detection, which enables to disconnect the system as soon as an arc is identified, and this is how fires are prevented. The component passes on the warning in different ways, including through SMS. Thanks to these abilities, it’s possible to achieve higher ROI for every roof or field, according to Sam Arditi.
In addition to the grants it has received so far, Tigo has raised $50 million since its founding, with investors including: Matrix, Generation (whose chairman is Al Gore), Seattle-based OVP, and Israel’s Israel Cleantech and Clal Energy.
Today Tigo has installations on the roofs of the leading companies in the world, including Intel and many others in the U.S., Europe, Japan, China, Australia and Israel, as well as many installations on schools. The Company has also begun providing equipment for power fields, and also sells to private homes. Tigo has just finalized the installation of panels on 44,000 roofs in the UK, in residential areas.
The most pioneering aspect of Tigo’s work is the installation of panels with high isolation capabilities on the walls of buildings, an arena which is still in its preliminary stages but will eventually enable most of the world’s population to join the “solar party.” Another Israeli start-up, Pythagoras, is also active in this arena. The objective is that not only private home owners will be able to enjoy the solar revolution, but also a large part of the world’s population which lives in high-rise apartment buildings.