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Dr. Tom Buttgenbach
Founder & CEO

17 November 2022

What was the reason behind the company’s rebranding from 8minute to Avantus?

I founded 8minute in 2009 as a California-based solar developer, with a unique focus on very large-scale projects and technology leadership — optimizing power plants for lower cost and higher reliability performance. Our company rebranded from 8minute to Avantus to reflect an increased focus on technology and system-architecture design, offering an expanded suite of clean energy products and services. We are aiming to be a pure-play clean energy major. The product is our highly integrated system design of smart power plants, and the delivery network is launching right now - the first digitally connected energy generation and energy storage network across the Western United States. We have 50 GW of system capacity currently under development in the Western U.S., including about 42 GW of solar and 78 GWh of energy storage. This pipeline represents over $70 billion in clean energy investments and will provide enough power for more than 30 million people day and night.

Could you provide an overview of a few of your flagship projects?

In 2011, we started construction on - what is still - the largest solar project in the Western world, the Mount Signal Solar Cluster, with 800 MWdc. In 2016, we brought Springbok 2 online, which was the first time a solar power plant beat the price of a fossil fuel power plant. We also created the Eland Solar & Storage Center, the first large-scale solar power plant with a 60% capacity factor — twice the natural capacity factor of the sun. It is the lowest-cost solar and energy storage project in the country, designed to deliver clean energy, both day and night, to nearly a million people in Los Angeles, California.

With our proprietary software, we created a digital twin for Eland to simulate both the power plant performance as well as the economics from both our and the customer's viewpoints. We found optimal economics hovered at around a 60% capacity factor and designed a power plant to meet the customer's needs. 

What role is technology playing in the green transition?

The clean energy transition is not just about dirty fossil fuels becoming clean renewables. We are driving a technology revolution, predominantly stemming from digital networks — similar to how Netflix changed the way we consume entertainment media, how Airbnb has fundamentally changed the hospitality industry, or how Tesla has changed the transportation sector.


A lot of this transition is software-driven, and it enables a future in the energy sector that is not just clean and sustainable, but also more reliable and a lot more responsive than the system we have today. 


How does the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) impact Avantus and the renewable energy landscape?

The last 12 to 18 months were a bit of a rough ride. We faced many challenges including import issues, the Department of Commerce’s solar panel investigation, inflationary pressures that came from supply chain disruptions, rising raw materials costs, Covid-19, and the war in Ukraine, among others. With the passage of the IRA, there is a clear signal that this work is the future, and there is a strong interest in the clean energy sector going forward.

When it comes to large projects, it takes about five to seven years from initial interconnection studies to get through permitting, land acquisitions, and construction. We need to have the ability to plan for the future. For the first time, the IRA means we have a 12-year planning horizon. We have assembled a massive pipeline in the last few years where we must invest millions, if not tens of millions of dollars, into projects before having off-take contract certainty. With the IRA, we are now adding about ten GW a year to the pipeline, just to keep pace with the vastly expanding market.

What is your vision for Avantus in the next few years?

In the Southwestern U.S. area, we are blessed with good sunshine and availability of land. This is the place where we can compete against fossil fuels, and right now, solar with storage is about 40% cheaper than fossil fuels. The IRA allows us to go further east and north, where you have less sunshine, so the economics are more challenging. But at this stage, we can literally build power plants in the New York area and still compete against fossil fuels successfully. This is no longer a choice between clean and expensive, versus dirty and cheap. Now it is clean, inexpensive, and reliable — the best of all worlds. 

Our focus the next five years is rolling out a solid portion of our 50 GW pipeline. We’ll also be executing on our services platform to offer a more efficient delivery of clean energy through our digitally connected networks of power plants and energy storage centers. This will allow us to serve a range of diverse customers, from smaller customers to large utilities and corporate customers. The integration of energy storage is also a game changer. 

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