Michigan-based startup Sesame Solar is producing the world’s first fully renewable mobile nanogrid for natural disaster relief. Its units can be used as mobile communications and command centers, medical units, kitchens and even temporary housing. Systems may be ready for use within 15 minutes of arrival.
Most such mobile units have been powered by diesel fuel, which when burned emits carbon dioxide, which contributes to climate change.
But Sesame’s units have solar panels on top, giving the company its name – a reference to “open mole”.
“The whole concept is that no fossil fuels are needed to have energy autonomy days or weeks after an extreme weather disaster, such as a hurricane or tornado or wildfire, or a grid outage event in California … or A cyber-attack, or anytime the grid is just down,” said Lauren Flanagan, Sesame co-founder and CEO.
“We combine solar and battery storage, or we even have other sources of renewable energy, we use green hydrogen as backup power. And if the conditions are right we can do small wind turbines,” Flanagan he said.
Sesame sells systems for anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000, or more, for larger establishments such as a full medical clinic. It has sold over 50 units since its launch last June. Its customers already include the US Air Force, as well as Cox and . cable providers such as Comcast,
“There have been 18 multibillion-dollar climate disasters in America in the past 18 months. And it’s rare that you’re going to find a company that already has revenue, already has customers, has already impacted the world. And it’s done in a stellar budget,” said Vijay Chatha, along with VSC Ventures, one of the investors backing Sesame Solar.
Others include Morgan Stanley, Pax Angels and Belle Capital. The company has only raised $2 million so far, which may seem like a little for a company with such vast potential. But Flanagan said revenue has tripled in the past year and is set to do so again this year.
“The reason we haven’t raised a lot of capital is because we have revenue. I’m an old school operator, I believe in product fit to market, find customers who will pay, improve it, and put in the effort.” Run as close to break-even as you can, and then you have options, right?” he said.
One of them is a potential new business model where the company will rent units rather than sell them. She wants to get FEMA on board in a way that she says will be a gamechanger.
Disclosure: Comcast owns CNBC’s parent company NBCUniversal.