“It’s been exciting to be in a company that’s really growing fast. Turntide Technologies is blowing up because there’s strong demand for what we do. We’re trying to help solve the world’s biggest problem, climate change, and solve it where not enough attention is focused – energy consumption.”
The electrification of everything has been a growing trend since 2020. Turntide Technologies is one company that is acting and innovating to help accelerate this trend. Eric Meyerson from Turntide digs into their technology, the market, and their impact. Turntide earlier this year announced the close of an $80M Series B, with investment led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Fifth Wall, and FootPrint Coalition, among others. They also recently announced the completion of $225M in convertible note financing, with investments from Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Monashee Investment Management LLC, and JLL Spark, bringing Turntide’s total funding to $400M.
What is Turntide Technologies working on?
The problem that Turntide is trying to solve is that the world uses too much energy. Right now, there’s no path to getting to 100% renewable energy without reducing consumption.
Traditional ways of reducing consumption have been through conservation and compromise, and neither of those are going to get us the scale of energy consumption reduction that we need to reach net zero carbon emissions. Meanwhile, we can’t build renewable energy fast enough to actually meet the world’s growing demand. Turntide is specifically looking at energy consumption by systems that run on motors, as most of the world’s electricity is consumed by outdated motor systems.
A team of researchers at Illinois Institute of Technology in the mid-2000s, led by our VP of Motor Design Piyush Desai, decided to take a look at a type of motor tech called switched reluctance technology, which is a different model of motor design. For reference, switched reluctance motors have mostly been used in zero fault tolerant types of environments, like nuclear submarines and keeping power plants cool. The downside to switched reluctance motors was that they were inefficient. Desai’s team’s research was focused on evolving these motors from inefficient but reliable machines into highly efficient, and still-reliable machines. And they did it!
Then in the last year or so, we’ve made a huge investment on the software side. We migrated our brand from Software Motor Company to Turntide, because the plan was always for the motor upgrade to be the starting point for a business to transform the sustainability of its operations. The way we do that is with intelligence – our vision is to replace all the world’s motors with intelligent and optimal motor systems. To do this, we apply a layer of intelligence where today there are just built systems that have on/off switches or run on timers, that’s where energy ends up getting wasted. All of this can be made more intelligent.
We call this our Platform for Sustainable Operations.
How is Turntide thinking about the market and competition?
A lot of companies make motors. Most of the motors are still AC induction motors that are based on a design patented by Nikola Tesla in the 19th century. They have been improved incrementally since then, but it’s still essentially the same motor design. Other companies have designed more efficient motors powered with permanent magnets, but these are full of rare earth metals that are environmentally devastating and geopolitically fraught to produce.
Turntide started with creating an intelligent motor. Turntide is further standing out from the competition by rolling out the Platform for Sustainable Operations. This platform is a way for an organization to 1) have full insight into all the ways that their built environment is consuming energy, and 2) optimize that energy while also optimizing the comfort of the customers, the employees, and the animals (if you’re in agriculture) inside those buildings to maintain everyone’s comfort, health, and productivity and improve their satisfaction.
What sets this Platform apart is that it is an open system, so you can plug in other sustainability technologies. With this platform model, our customers and partners are able to access an entire ecosystem of technologies that are always innovating and developing new sustainability technologies.
We’ve tested a lot of solutions to really figure out what the best applications were. Now that we know how to be successful in HVAC retrofits, we are ready to extend and expand and apply that success to other industries. For example, we recently acquired two companies that make battery and drivetrain technologies so we can apply the Platform to transportation, especially the commercial and industrial vehicles that don’t get the attention of mass-production passenger cars.
How is Turntide thinking about impact and impact metrics?
The last comprehensive IEA report on what’s consuming the world’s electricity was in 2011. The report showed that 47% of the world’s energy was used by motors and 19% by lighting. In the last 10 years, almost everyone has replaced their light bulbs with LEDs. As a result, the amount of energy being used by lighting has been reduced. However, the world has gotten hotter and the demand for air conditioning has gone up, so it’s pretty safe to say that motors are using most of the electricity in buildings now.
People are demanding more modern construction and air conditioning. In particular, in the US we’ve seen heat waves where it gets so hot that air conditioning can overwhelm electrical grids.
Our customers who are retrofitting their systems with our motors are reducing their energy consumption by an average of 64%. For reference, if we replaced all the world’s motors in buildings with Turntide’s Smart Motor System, and we only got half that performance improvement, global carbon emissions would be reduced by roughly 2,300 megatons annually. That’s equivalent to adding seven new Amazon rainforests to the world.
The Platform for Sustainable Operations is going to be the future of the business. Customers will come to Turntide for the motor system and stay for the platform.
The world is changing incredibly fast. Within the last month, Exxon investors forced three new people onto their board because they realized that the company wasn’t focused enough on the end of oil and the transition to renewables. We also saw a major court decision go against Dutch Shell in the EU. Congress passed a new law with massive spending on critical manufacturing, and an unprecedented infrastructure bill is in negotiations right now.
Business needs to change because the climate crisis is the world’s biggest problem – it’s going to cause some major disruption to life and prosperity. We are at the point where climate technology makes business sense – even if we didn’t have this moral imperative to try to save the world. Businesses are starting to realize, that sustainability isn’t just about checking a box, being compliant and issuing a press release. The new sustainability is about ensuring the future survival of businesses.
About The Author
Co-Founder at The Impact
Daniel currently works at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. His original assignment was to maintain and update facility safety documentation for all facilities on-site, and perform risk analysis. Over time, his role has expanded to leading continuous improvement efforts through product management.
Concurrently, Daniel volunteers with Techstars, helping organize startup weekends, and with the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, organizing events on the local and national levels of the organization. He also volunteers with One World, and previously with Powerhouse Ventures, to source and screen startups for potential investment.
Daniel holds a BS in Chemical Engineering from UC Davis, and recently completed coursework in energy innovation from Stanford. His passion is at the intersection of sustainability, innovation, and business.