In the latest of our Q&As with the innovators selected for the inaugural Startupbootcamp Energy Australia Accelerator program, we talk to Jonathan Knight, co-founder and CEO of Uprise Energy. Knight shares details about his company’s wind-powered electricity generator and explains how it will be a game-changer for power at the grid’s edge and particularly in humanitarian contexts.
What makes the Uprise generator special?
It’s the world’s first portable renewable-energy generator of meaningful size. The machine that we’re bringing to market is a 10-kilowatt portable wind turbine that has been designed to fit into a standard 20-foot [six-metre] shipping container. It can be towed by an ordinary vehicle, and when it arrives on site it can be set up by a single person in an hour. But more important than the portability features – which are unique and novel – are the breakthroughs that we have made in the machine’s performance. This machine makes meaningful amounts of power reliably and affordably in the lower wind-speed conditions that are commonly found around the world.
Aside from a nominal amount of wind, what else is required to run one of these generators successfully?
If the user has a requisite amount of space – roughly half an acre [about 2000m2] – plus wind, the turbine can make power.
And who might that user be?
For those businesses and farmers who may already be connected to a power grid but want to lower their power bills, there’s an opportunity. But the real competitive advantage is at the grid’s edge and beyond: powering remote communities and job sites is, we think, going to be the most common application. It will be a viable alternative to diesel generators.
Uprise is also talking about the humanitarian sector. Why is that important to you?
Everything that we experience in the modern world is enabled by power, yet globally, 1.4 billion people do not have access to electricity and more than 3 billion still use fuels like wood, charcoal, coal and dung for cooking and heating. Health, education and prosperity are just a few things that improve with access to power.
And how might your generator be superior to, say, diesel generators in humanitarian situations?
Beyond the negative environmental impact, diesel generators are quite expensive to run and are reliant on a fossil fuel that is not always available. I know that right here in Australia, many Indigenous communities that rely solely on diesel generators often get stranded during the wet season because fuel transportation in/out is not possible, causing food supply problems because the refrigerators turn off.
The company is based in San Diego – what have you achieved since you’ve been in Australia participating in the Startupbootcamp?
It’s always been part of our plan to have some representation in the Australian market. Before I even arrived for the boot camp, I was getting interest from mining companies and we also have some good traction in South-East Asia. We’ve considered manufacturing in Australia, too. The past few months has allowed us to explore all of that further and create strategic relationships here. It’s been a very productive few months!