Interview with IntelStor founder Philip Totaro on renewable energy data platform

Environment | Interviews   |   
Published January 15, 2019   |   

We had a chance to interview Philip Totaro, founder, and CEO of IntelStor, market research and strategic advisory company that recently launched a renewable energy data platform built for decision support of project diligence and product development. Philip has over 12 years of experience in the power generation industry, having previously worked for General Electric as well as Clipper Windpower.

You can read the complete interview below:

1. First, thanks for accepting our interview request. Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?

Well, my background is as an Aerospace Engineer, and I spent the last 11 years in the renewable energy industry. Prior to that, I was working for three different Fortune 500 companies on innovation development and corporate strategy.

2. IntelStor recently launched a renewable energy data platform built for decision support of project diligence and product development. What does it do and what was the inspiration behind it?

The concept for IntelStor™ has originally conceived approximately 16 years ago when I first started working in industry after my university studies. I was constantly being asked to develop research reports, market analysis and competitor benchmarking for company executives. The repetitive nature of the requests and the constant tweaks of the input data were begging for standardization and a central database where all our information lived.

Philip Totaro 1

Philip Totaro, founder and CEO of IntelStor

Fast forward to a world in which wider adoption of cloud technology has made that data centralization and synchronization possible. IntelStor™ was developed to solve those challenges I had years ago.

Imagine buying a market research report and having the content dynamically updated when the conditions in the market change. No more static PDFs and stale data are given to your executive team for them to make decisions. Now IntelStor™ allows users to get actionable information that is updated on a daily basis, which allows for much faster response times and better strategic decisions.

I actually use it myself every day to stay up to speed on what is going on in the global industry. I’d be lost without it.

3. Can you give us some numbers on how data platform benefits its subscribers at various levels?

We ran a semi-private beta prior to launching IntelStor™ where some of our best customers and prospects were able to try out some of the features. The results were tremendous.

A renewable energy project developer used it to comparison shop for wind turbines by benchmarking the “should cost” of the bill of materials compared to the price quotations they received. They saved US$60,000 in CapEx cost per turbine on a 400MW order when they realized they were initially being overcharged.

A private equity group was able to quantify more than US$17 million in patent infringement liability prior to asset acquisition, leading to a de-risking activity which almost totally mitigated their liability and paved the way for the M&A transaction.

A wind turbine OEM was able to benchmark their product positioning in more than 20 markets around the world simultaneously using IntelStor™. As a result, they introduced a new turbine model which has resulted in more than US$600 million in order book already by targeting underpenetrated regions established as well as emerging markets.

4. Renewable energy is a global phenomenon on the upswing and its growth is set to accelerate in the foreseeable future. According to you, what are the major bottlenecks right now, and how do we overcome them to ensure its future growth?

Governmental policy can still hamstring market development and the transition from coal or oil to something reliable and much cleaner. Countries like India have major goals related to renewable energy development, but they risk falling behind those goals because the policy implementation at the state level has not kept pace with the speed which the project developers and supply chain companies want to move to achieve those targets. Other countries like Poland and Australia even have some politicians threatening to introduce legislation which would stop all renewable energy project development altogether and maintain their reliance on coal.

5. Can you name 5 key trends and technologies that will shape renewable energy in 2019 and beyond?

#1 Digital services build on data collected from SCADA systems, condition monitoring systems and also “dark data” collection systems which will compile non-digital information such as equipment maintenance and inspection logs, amongst other things.

#2 Increasing efficiency of perovskite-based solar cells, and corresponding cost reductions through the production economies of scale which come with it.

#3 Hybrid materials use in wind turbine composites manufacturing, for instance, a metal matrix composite in the blade root combined with a high modulus glass fiber composite in the outboard section towards the tip. This could optimize both strength and weight and eventually we may see them made by 3D printing which would optimize quality too.

#4 Remote inspection technologies, including drones with video cameras, optical cameras and infrared cameras which can survey in-service equipment without putting inspection technicians in danger.

#5 Integrated control systems which allow wind turbines, solar arrays and on-site energy storage systems to all be controlled in a coordinated manner for price-optimal power output to utilities or consumers.

6. IntelStor was originally created as a consulting tool and now, it has been spun off as a separate company. Tell us about the journey so far. And the future!

We have essentially completed the first phase of the digitalization of a consulting company. We have more features to add to IntelStor™, but the most exciting part of the future is becoming a data aggregator in the Energy industry.

With the establishment of the Energy Data Alliance we have established a framework for data licensing facilitated by the IntelStor™ platform. We’re going to be leveraging blockchain technology to enhance digital rights management so that data usage can be tracked and data owners can be appropriately compensated for it. It’s really exciting.