Energy Startups boldly going where few have gone before
“Space, the final frontier” - at the beginning of each episode of the original Star Trek TV series, William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk would start his inspiring speech as the Starship Enterprise came into shot and zoomed past.
Since the space race of the1950s and 60s, the final frontier has been the domain of government and large military contractors.
But like most sectors in the last ten years, space technology has seen a rapid rate of change, innovation, and investment with the benefits accessible to entrepreneurs, allowing them to build new products and services to combat climate change, improve systems and processes, and drive economic growth.
Satellite costs are plummeting
It is estimated the cost of building the Starship Enterprise would be a cool trillion dollars (AUD$1.3trn). Way out of the price range of most startups tinkering in their labs and sheds.
The cost of making satellites is now in the millions but what about the cost to send one up into orbit? A 1kg payload on the Vanguard rocket in the 1950s cost $1m. The current cost of a 1kg payload on the SpaceX Starship is $10,000. With such a cost reduction in both making satellites and launching them into orbit, the possibilities of space have become abundant.
While high-profile space startups like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic dominate media attention, there is an increasing number of space startups and accelerator programs launching worldwide in the satellite, military, and even the energy industry.
Energy startups making an impact
Many space satellites, rather than looking into the depths of space, are looking back at earth and form the backbone of critical infrastructure such as communication, navigation, and weather.
These Earth observation satellites and the data they provide are spawning a new industry of space services with multiple use cases in energy, agriculture, finance, and climate action. The monitoring of water pollution, deforestation and the melting of ice caps is enabling early and immediate action to prevent disastrous events such as devastating wildfires.
According to research by markets&markets, the global Small Satellite market size will grow from the current $2.8 billion to $7.1 billion by 2025 – with a CAGR of 20.5%.
As the market grows, so does the startup scene so let's look at three energy startups utilising space technology.
Based out of Berlin, Germany, LiveEO uses satellite imagery from multiple satellites combined with their state of the art AI technology to provide innovative infrastructure monitoring in the verticals of railway, electricity and pipelines.
The insights help organisations to identify dangers from vegetation encroachment and third party interactions along the network, allowing organisations to act quickly and optimally in managing critical infrastructure.
LiveEO was part of Startupbootcamp’s EnergyTech Hub program in 2020 and has great technology applicable to the Australian market.
EnergyHawk, based out of Boston, United States, combines satellite imagery and their software to map the largest and most energy intensive facilities in North America.
EnergyHawk’s customers are then able to search, locate, and evaluate their target prospects based on monthly consumption, demand, square footage, or industry assessments and use this info to provide a targeted energy offer.
Satellogic is an Earth observation company based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The company, founded in 2010 by Emiliano Kargieman and Gerardo Richarte, uses modern satellite technologies to build the first scalable earth observation platform with the ability to remap the entire planet at both high-frequency and high-resolution.
The data from Satellogic is having a huge impact on forestry tracking, agricultural management, finance and insurance sector to manage the impacts of climate change on assets, and energy asset management to reduce operational costs and improve efficiency.
The new frontier
These are just a few examples of the exciting and new innovations filtering through from space which are impacting traditional industries and processes.
As the cost of satellites and the cost of launching satellites into orbit continues to decrease we see the use cases of satellite services accelerating. Rather than space being the final frontier it is quickly becoming the new frontier for enterprising energy startups.