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IntriEnergy Founder Jackie Coffey on Transforming the Solar Industry

Introduction

Solar energy is becoming more readily available than ever. Prices are declining, and rising awareness of climate change is inspiring many to reduce carbon emissions. However, current solar energy technology still has plenty of room for improvement. 

IntriEnergy has developed three innovative technologies to vastly improve the performance of solar energy: D·ARK, an anti-reflective coating; IntrinSiC, a tandem cell made of carbon and silicon; and IntrinSiC Quantum, which increases the energy of the cell. IntriEnergy licenses out its technologies to improve solar power across the industry. We reached out to co-founder and CEO Jacqueline “Jackie” Coffey to learn more about how the company got its start and hear her advice to fellow female founders.

Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

In your own words, how would you describe your company?

Jackie Coffey

IntriEnergy, a Florida-based renewable energy company, is Changing the Solar Equation™. Our team has developed and patented a breakthrough solar technology platform that will increase the energy output of a solar cell by 60% compared to today’s best-in-class solar cells. Combined, our technologies will double CO2 emission reductions while providing the lowest-cost source of all energy generation. Our vision is to accelerate global net-zero targets by providing the solar industry the most advanced, cost-competitive solar technologies in the $150 billion global solar industry.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

What inspired you to take the leap and start this company?

Jackie Coffey

You may call it serendipity. I have been involved in the energy generation industry for over 30 years, with a focus on solar in the past decade. I was consulting on a solar project when I met Dr. Franco Gaspari. He introduced us to his extensive research and development in photovoltaics. We were intrigued! He was developing a next-generation, high-efficiency, and low-cost solar cell and expressed an interest in working with us to bring this technology to the global market. We took the next step to vet the technology with several industry veterans, who confirmed this was indeed a breakthrough, at which time we formed IntriEnergy.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

Who is on your team and how did you come together? Did you previously work on projects together?

Jackie Coffey

Over the years, I have been fortunate to meet and work with each of the members of our team. We have assembled a team of accomplished, industry-recognized individuals, each with over 30 years’ experience in their respective fields. These individuals have a proven track record of developing, commercializing, and bringing technologies to market in the areas of solar and semiconductor manufacturing, materials modeling, and photovoltaics.  We shared the common goal of bringing advanced energy technologies to the global market for a cleaner, more sustainable energy future. Core team members include:

  • CEO and founder Jackie Coffey: more than 30 years executive management and consulting in the energy industry including Ontario Hydro and Coffey, Fisch & Associates.
  • CTO and founder Dr. Franco Gaspari: inventor of the technology, professor of physics of UOIT, 30 years in photovoltaics and applied materials research, and more than 75 published, peer-reviewed whitepapers.
  • EVP Corporate Development and founder Jeff Whitney: more than 30 years in executive management, startups, finance, and research and development management at Orion, Scherer Group, Netline, and SolarGreen.
  • CFO Dan Pomerleau: more than 30 years building businesses that encompass startups and middle-market, private, equity-owned, and public companies focused primarily in the manufacturing and power transformation industries.
  • EVP Engineering and COO Jan Vandesande: more than 30 years in research and development, project management, international business development, marketing, and sales in the semiconductor and solar industry at IMEC, Intel, Alcatel, Roth & Rau, and Activ Solar.
  • VP Product Development Pere Alcazar: 30 years of international lead engineering roles in technical, design, and deployment of solar projects at Circutor, Heliene, Helios Energy EU, and Initiam Ruai SL.

Additional information on our team members can be found on our website:  www.IntriEnergy.com.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

How is IntriEnergy transforming the solar energy industry?

Jackie Coffey

IntriEnergy is transforming the solar industry from both technology and business model perspectives. From a technology perspective, the solar industry was and continues to be plagued by the theoretical efficiency limit of silicon, which is the core of all solar cells, ultimately impacting solar’s long-term value proposition as a low-cost energy generation source. The industry is investing heavily in research and development to overcome this barrier, investing $6.7 billion in 2019, with limited results. The industry projects solar cells providing high energy at a low cost will not be commercially available for another 10 to 15 years.

IntriEnergy not only breaks but shatters the silicon efficiency barrier. Our patented technologies unlock 60% more of the sun’s power, solving the industry’s diminishing value proposition issue.  Dr. Gaspari and his team have developed a novel approach to improving the energy output of a solar cell using abundant, inexpensive, and non-toxic materials, primarily silicon and carbon. These materials have been well proven in the solar and semiconductor industries for over 50 years. The patented IntriEnergy technology platform comprises three uncomplicated yet novel innovations, enabling the world’s first high-power, low-cost solar cell architecture that is capable of increasing the energy output of a solar cell by up to 60% while doubling CO2 emission reductions: 

  • D·ARK – an enhanced anti-reflective coating that achieves near zero reflectivity (99%), resulting in a 10% greater energy yield on any solar cell.  
  • IntrinSiC Cell – a silicon and carbon tandem cell that captures 40% more of the sun’s spectrum.
  • IntrinSiC Quantum – a nanodot tunnel junction which optimizes voltage flow between the base silicon and silicon carbon layers, providing 10% more energy.

Our technology platform creates a breakthrough in the solar industry, putting IntriEnergy a decade ahead of the competition. At IntriEnergy, we believe the most efficient way to accelerate global net zero targets is by working together for a more sustainable energy future, leading to our business model. Our patented technologies have been engineered to be implemented by today’s solar cell manufacturers. IntriEnergy’s business model is similar to that used in the semiconductor industry. We will license our intellectual property to cell manufacturers seeking a competitive advantage in the $150 billion solar industry. Rather than establishing our own capital-intensive manufacturing infrastructure, we will license our technologies to cell manufacturers who already have the equipment, manufacturing experience, and customer relationships to rapidly introduce this solar breakthrough to the global market.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

What does the competitive landscape look like, and how do you differentiate?

Jackie Coffey

IntriEnergy intends to license our intellectual property to solar cell manufacturers rather than compete with them. However, possible competitors fall within two categories in the solar industry:

  • Vertically integrated cell and panel manufacturers with significant research and development budgets, such as Trina Solar, Jinko Solar, Canadian Solar, etc. These companies are investing heavily in research and development with much of the focus on cell and manufacturing optimization. These potential competitors could actually become IntriEnergy’s customers through licensing agreements.
  • Research labs and universities (e.g. National Renewable Energy Labs, Fraunhofer Institute, etc.). History has shown that the majority of solar innovations have been created through academia. IntriEnergy’s inventors and science team members are established in universities and research institutes across several continents, providing IntriEnergy access to the most up-to-date intelligence on cutting-edge solar research globally.  
Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

How do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business and start making revenue?

Jackie Coffey

IntriEnergy is currently in the process of engineering and developing our pre-commercial manufacturing prototypes for our first technology to market. This involves tuning the process to achieve consistent maximum energy yield. Our work to date has garnered interest from solar cell manufacturers and photovoltaic system developers who have expressed an interest in integrating and field testing our first technology upon completion of the pre-commercial prototypes. Discussions continue with these industry participants to formalize working relationships as we complete the pre-commercial prototypes, leading to licensing agreements and revenue.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

What do you want potential investors to know about you and/or your company?

Jackie Coffey
  • IntriEnergy will accelerate global net zero targets in the $150 billion solar industry through the introduction of the world’s first high-energy, low-cost solar cell.
  • IntriEnergy’s technology platform maximizes the solar industry’s manufacturing assets. 
  • IntriEnergy will work with, rather than compete, in the solar industry. Solar manufacturers who utilize IntriEnergy’s technology platform will realize a 60% increase in power output, driving significant revenues never seen before in the renewable energy industry.
  • The IntriEnergy technology platform significantly increases manufacturers’ existing production line capacity in terms of watts and cells with little to no new capital expenditures.
  • End users, from homeowners to project developers and utility-scale solar farms, will benefit from utilizing the IntriEnergy platform. IntriEnergy’s breakthrough in energy density means rooftops and utility-scale solar farms will require fewer panels and less area, significantly decreasing project costs and shortening the time to achieve return on investment.
  • IntriEnergy’s patented technology revolutionizes the solar industry. Compared to today’s industry standard cells and panels, our technology platform increases the energy yield of any solar cell by 60%, doubles the amount of CO2 emission reductions, and reduces the cost of energy generation by 37%.
  • Currently at $150 billion annually and growing at 20% annually, Bloomberg New Energy Finance projects that by 2050 the solar industry will be a $4 trillion market.
  • IntriEnergy’s team of business leaders, engineers, and scientists has a proven track record of developing, commercializing, and bringing technologies to market in the areas of semiconductor and solar wafering manufacturing, materials modeling, and photovoltaics. Each member of the team has more than 30 years’ experience in their respective areas.
  • IntriEnergy’s licensing model results in low capital overhead cost and high margins for the company and its investors (estimated 85%).
Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

As you think about the business 5-10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? Have you set any future goals for the company?

Jackie Coffey

IntriEnergy’s vision is to accelerate global net zero targets by providing the most advanced, cost-competitive solar technologies in the $150 billion global solar industry. Over the next five years, we plan to release our technologies in a phased approach, building our brand as an innovator and leader in energy generation advancements that provide benefits across the entire solar value chain. In addition to licensing, our technology and intellectual property strategy and roadmap will provide opportunities for multiple joint venture partnerships and special purpose acquisition companies. Our licensing model eliminates the need for capital expenditures, realizing a significant gross profit, attracting opportunities for mergers and acquisitions or initial public offerings, and providing significant value to the company and its investors. 

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

As a woman, what difficulties have you encountered working on your company? What advice would you give to women founders?

Jackie Coffey

I believe any difficulties we have encountered are typical of most technology startups, including raising funds and assembling the right team to complete the product development and achieve revenue. Raising funds can be particularly difficult when introducing a breakthrough technology, as it was critical to remain “under the radar” until such time as our intellectual property had been secured. While patent prosecution is time-consuming, it is necessary to ensure the long-term value of the company. Since our inception, we have achieved several significant milestones to bring us to our current stage. 

  • Experimental work completed to prove the theory of making solar significantly more efficient at a cost-competitive price.
  • Securing our intellectual property.
  • Building an international technical and business team and significant industry network.
  • Grant and investor money raised to support and complete proof of principle, including lab characterization results.
  • Interest and ongoing discussions for technology integration and field testing with industry participants in North America, Europe, and India.

Although my daughters might argue with this statement, I’m not one for giving advice. If asked, however, I would share the following insights:

  1. The solar and energy generation industries are predominantly a man’s world, but this is rapidly changing, so don’t let that stop you. 
  2. If you don’t have 100% faith in your product and understand how it will benefit your customers, don’t waste your time.
  3. Establishing and running a startup is not for the faint of heart. Perseverance is the key.
  4. Assemble a great team with diverse individuals who respect one another.
  5. Communication is the key. Lack of clear communication causes most of life’s problems in both your professional and personal lives.
  6. Believe in yourself, and don’t take things too personally. You will have some bumpy encounters, so be prepared.

We look forward to seeing where Jackie and her team take the company. IntriEnergy is currently raising on StartEngine.

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About: Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

Léa is passionate about impact investing and sustainability. Prior to KingsCrowd, she worked for Stanford’s accelerator, StartX, helping to select the most promising entrepreneurs. She also led the first award-winning study on the Malawian startup ecosystem. In her free-time, she volunteers to help entrepreneurs in Cameroon, Brazil and Colombia. Léa holds a degree in Anthropology from France and is currently enrolled in the UC Davis MBA program.

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