FiRe 2017: Building Elon’s World

By Arunabh Satpathy

In an arresting afternoon session on day 3 of the Future in Review conference, Cynthia Figge, CEO and Co founder, CSRHub moderated a panel consisting of representatives of companies that could complete Mark Anderson’s carbon trifecta. Will Perego, Founder and CEO, 24-Hour Solar Roof, Mark Godsy, CEO, Exro Technologies, and Ray Gibbs, CEO, Haydale came together to offer their perspectives on building Elon Musk’s vision of a sustainable energy future.

Figge set up the session by defining the three parts of the Carbon Trifecta: carbon capture, especially via direct air capture, processing CO2 into useful carbon based materials like graphene, carbon based polymers etc., and 3D printing.

To contextualize the companies’ work, Figge asked the representatives what their companies do and how it applies to the Trifecta.

Pereo started by speaking of his passion about real estate and sustainability and how clean energy was the next logical step. He also spoke of his fortune in being at a time and place where his aspirations could be realized and how those not at the right place should be helped.

“It dawned on me that we are lucky to be in a country in the United States,” he said. “If there is anything that I can do to bring some of our wealth to them [billion people without electricity], it would be an incredible experience.”

Godsy took a more statistics driven description of Exro’s future. He underlined the need for sustainable energy, because each year, human are putting in 36 million tons of CO2 into the air. Even signatories to the Paris Climate Accord, he said, fall short.

In a more direct rejoinder to the responses, Figge further drilled into the problem of scalability, asking how the companies aimed to scale.

Perego said that solar is growing exponentially, and how he envisions 50 percent market penetration in approximately 20 years. Already, he said, solar is the cheapest energy source in several states, so as more people switch to solar, a virtuous cycle will establish itself wherein existing utilities’ prices will go up.

Godsy told a story in the Bahamas, where he met an electric engineer whose eyes welled up at the mention of Exro’s vision of using tidal energy to generate power.

“Ever since I was a boy, I dreamed of these waves will power our island,” said Godsy, quoting the engineers.

Gibbs chimed in by talking about the size of the composites market.

“Composite materials market is 100 billion dollar market,” he said.

He spoke further of the energy savings that could be made if composites were replaced with nanomaterials and the savings that could be made by using graphene, which is a great head dissipator.

Asking about what the companies were doing right now, Figge quizzed the companies on what they were doing currently and if any new products were coming up.

Perego started by saying that 24-Hour should have a fully functioning unit by years end. The next year, a product for flash charge batteries is coming up. Finally, he expressed the need for the company to allow for neighbors to trade their renewable electricity among themselves.

Godsy said that Exro’s business plan is a combination of chess and dominoes. Three prototypes are being created internally, and four technical areas are being commercialized: generators (propulsion systems for drones), motors (confidential), reversible machine for bicycles, and the wind initiative. He shared his vision of seeing their technology in at least half a billion machines.

Gibbs started by mentioning an element of waste often overlooked. He said the oil and gas industry has leaky pipes, which are huge polluters, saying that the repair bill for a Saudi company is a billion dollars a year. He said that many problems could be solved using silicon carbide.

Figge ended the session by asking what the financial models for the developing world are.
Perego started by pushing for a pay-as-you-go model, giving the example of building a center with a 24-Hour Solar Roof for electricity and water and how time and money could be saved.

Godsy said that there’s abundant energy that could power the entire country with tidal forces. He said that they hope to be an important player so as to have people have access to things.

Gibbs ended on a driven note, when speaking about the need for water.

“It’s criminal that people in developing countries don’t have access to water,” he said.