Toronto-based Morgan Solar sees a promising future for solar energy and wants to use ground-breaking technology to help cities build efficient distributed grids. We spoke to CEO Mike Andrade to learn more about Morgan Solar, celebrate some of the company’s recent wins, and ask about his personal drive to do good in the world.
Describe your core technology(ies). What makes your solution different than anything else on the market? How is your company contributing to a cleaner, greener future?
Our core technologies are optical light modelling software and advanced optics. For 14 years, we’ve used our solutions to make traditional, existing solar projects more efficient. More recently, we’ve started to work with building owners to accurately model their sites using a digital twin. With our solution, we can understand how buildings respond to sunlight across seasons and design solutions that meet our customers’ goals while achieving satisfying aesthetics, generating electricity, and reducing heat load and energy consumption.
At Morgan Solar, we believe the best days of solar are ahead of us. Up to this point, like most new technologies, we are just using it to replace existing equipment, like coal plants. Ultimately, just like we did with mobile phones and computing, we will start to take advantage of its unique ability to deliver power at the source of consumption, tailored for the consumer using it.
This requires us to make meaningful amounts of power in cities, while at the same time reducing the energy that they use. People want light, and view, so just covering the windows up with solar panels defeats the purpose. That’s where our technology comes in. We reduce the power required to light and cool the building while generating more power than covering the window with a solar panel.
In the same way that we can use our cities for generation, we can get more out of our existing solar installations. People are just starting to realize that existing solar projects can generate more energy – it’s a hidden asset that is just as important as installing more solar. There is real potential in ensuring that existing and new solar projects are operating at full capacity.
Other than coffee, what gets you out of bed in the morning? How does this work connect with your core beliefs and values?
Climate change is the fundamental challenge of our generation. My background is technology and I believe that it has a role to play in solving these problems, with solar energy being one of the best options we have. Helping our company grow combines my sense of purpose with the skills I’ve acquired over my career. It’s interesting work, I believe in it, and I know it’s doing something good for the world. That’s all you can ask for in life.
At the same time, having a sense of mission and purpose doesn’t eliminate the pressures of the day-to-day competitive global market. Morgan Solar is one of the only games in town when it comes to innovative solar technologies in Canada. It’s a tough road.
Tell us about a recent win (or wins) or your company.
A few weeks ago, we launched our latest certified light management innovation for the utility and building-integrated solar markets. The IV-DAQ is a tool we use to assess and analyze the performance of existing solar fields with an eye to providing data and analytics about how to improve them.
In June, we completed a 13 MW project with Enbridge in Alberta that combines our partner Silfab Solar’s photovoltaic modules with our optical-film technology, SimbaX. The project was a major proof of concept for us, and we’re proud to share that it will supply the equivalent energy needs of about 3,000 homes and offset about 12,000 tonnes of carbon each year. Equally importantly, it was a demonstration that Morgan Solar can develop and deploy new solar technologies quickly with high reliability, in this case, with a 30-year warranty. This was the first installation of the technology. Nobody’s first product build is done at high scale, into a cost-competitive market like solar with that sort of warranty, but our platform allows us to do this. The same thing holds for our building products.
We also recently deployed a SPOTlight Solar Pergola at the Ontario Association of Architects headquarters in Toronto, a project that used elements of our building light management solutions to help the association achieve net-zero energy.
What’s next for your company?
Based on the success of our recent installations, I’m pleased to say that we’re seeing plenty of new interest from potential partners and investors. Currently, we’re raising money to help fund and accelerate our next steps. We plan to scale our business, continuously improve designs, and make it easier for everyone to adopt solar.
Finally, what’s on your team’s wish list for Ontario’s cleantech sector?
At the federal level, we talk a great game about cleantech, but we’re laggards when it comes to making the shift to renewables. In Ontario, solar is still a four-letter word. We’ve eliminated incentives, torn up PPAs. We’ve gone backwards.
We have to get serious about renewables. Solar is cheaper and more reliable than many other sources of electricity. Distributed grids are more resilient. If we don’t act now, we’ll be left with a less efficient system at a higher cost, and we’ll need to buy the technology from somebody else – none of the jobs will be ours. These are climate and economic imperatives.
Allowing people to sell back power to the grid would be a great start. We’d also like to see more stringent regulations on building energy efficiency requirements so that owners have to commit to more than installing LEDs and better windows in order to meet them.
With the technology that’s now available, solar is costing less and less. For example, with advancements in battery storage, it can cost less to install solar than to run a coal plant. This is not your parents’ solar; it doesn’t need a lot of help. I’d be happy if we just stopped fighting it!