every day strong Gusts from the North Atlantic batter hundreds of wind farms in Ireland, generating so much power that owners often have no one to sell it to, forcing them to dump otherwise useful power.
“From 12 to 14% of our potential generation goes to surplus. In Northern Ireland, it’s 18%,” said Derek Roddy, co-founder and chief executive of smart home company Climote. “If you are a wind farmer, you are feeling the pain. This is a big part of the change that you are walking away from, but the system is struggling to know what to do with it.”
Roddy had been thinking about this problem for a while. Climote focuses on heating and hot water, so it thinks a lot about supply and demand signals in the electricity sector. He was on his mind when he attended an event where an Irish social enterprise called FoodCloud took home one of the top prizes. FoodCloud, which was founded in 2012 by two college students, intercepts food that would otherwise go to waste and donates it to those in need.
“I was just listening to the audience on your whole sustainability story, and I said, shit, surplus energy, surplus food, they’re the same thing,” Roddy told TechCrunch+.
At that point, he realized that he had been approaching the problem of excess energy in the wrong way. With his company, he had focused on the technological part of the puzzle. And although he is still a key player, he had not made the dent that he wanted. After all, Ireland was still wasting a significant amount of wind energy.
“I said, okay, maybe we’re looking at this wrong, maybe we need to go and do our bit for the world and the globe to figure out the leftover piece and, by default, demonstrate how the real system might work.” The answer would not be another startup, but a FoodCloud-style nonprofit social enterprise.
Having spent the last two decades in the smart home business, Roddy had a front row seat in the Celtic Tiger economy. The tech sector helped lift the formerly agricultural nation out of poverty and made it one of the wealthiest nations in Europe. But even in rich countries, some people tend to be left behind.