Business idea: Optimisation software for energy plants
Year founded: 2021
The start-up from the Technical University of Hamburg offers innovative, cloud-based optimisation software that can be used to continuously optimise the operation of energy plants
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Suena: Optimisation software for energy storage and renewable energies
Suena offers an innovative, cloud-based optimisation software with which the operation of energy plants can be continuously optimised techno-economically on the basis of forecast models. The start-up from the Technical University of Hamburg (TU HAMBURG) is supervised by “beyourpilot” (Editor’s note: “beyourpilot” has been operating under the “Startup Port” brand since July 2023) and Professor Thorsten Alexander Kern from the Institute of Mechatronics and Machschienenbau.
Today’s energy system, which is largely based on the combustion of fossil fuels, is facing profound changes worldwide. The necessary technical solutions for implementing the energy transition, such as renewable energies and storage capacities, are already available. Currently, the greatest challenge is to optimise the interaction of these solutions.
This is exactly where Suena comes in: Its cloud-based software uses state-of-the-art artificial intelligence methods to network energy systems with each other. In concrete terms, this means that they calculate an optimal schedule for each plant. The optimisation software suena opt makes it possible to use energy plants for multiple applications and to operate in different markets.
The startup takes a multi-use and multi-market approach here to maximise profit: “suena opt is a real-time operation and trading software that optimises the schedule of the energy plant portfolio for different applications and markets,” explains co-founder Dr.-Ing. Lennard Wilkening. Applied to battery storage systems and energy parks (incl. wind & solar energy), the software optimises the deployment of the assets in real time based on forecasting models. This enables energy suppliers to react flexibly to market dynamics and facilitates the integration of renewable energies. This not only increases efficiency, but also cost-effectiveness, with the aim of accelerating the energy transition.
The important role of battery storage systems in the energy transition
As technological development continues, battery cell prices fall and political debates on sustainable innovation intensify, the economic attractiveness of battery storage systems is being promoted. As battery storage systems make an important contribution to the energy transition, profitable operation is essential. Continuous optimisation of the application portfolio is an important prerequisite for proving oneself on the market in the long term against the increasing number of competitors.
The business idea resulted from research
The idea arose from the research work of Dr.-Ing. Lennard Wilkening and Miguel Wesselmann as part of their research at the Technical University of Hamburg (TU Hamburg): “As part of my doctoral thesis, I worked a lot on the integration of energy storage systems. And with evaluating and optimising them both technically and economically. I worked a lot with Miguel, who wrote his project and master’s thesis in this area. We looked at the whole thing from an economic perspective, and Miguel’s second Master’s degree with a specialisation in technology management and entrepreneurship was helpful,” says Lennard.
After years of research in the field of renewable energies, especially battery storage technology, the founders put their research results into practice and developed the first AI-based model predictive optimisation (MPO) software suena opt for a technical-economic multi-use operation of battery storage systems.
Mentorship and start-up advice
They are mentored in their work by Professor Thorsten Alexander Kern from the Institute of Mechatronics in Machschienenbau at TU Hamburg: “He then referred us to Startup Dock (Editor’s note: “Startup Dock” is today “Startup Port @TUHH”), or “beyourpilot” (Editor’s note: “beyourpilot” has been operating under the “Startup Port” brand since July 2023), for start-up advice. Since then, Dr. Andrea Otto has been looking after us: she successfully coached us to the EXIST start-up grant,” reports Lennard. They are in constant exchange regarding the start-up project and regularly check where there is room for improvement.
The focus is on software development
The two founders also desperately needed support in the software area. That’s where Tom Witter came in: “He’s a developer and a former classmate of mine,” Miguel explains: “Tom was just finishing his Master’s degree in Computational Engineering Science in Aachen. I asked him if he could imagine founding a company with us. After graduating, he promptly moved back to Hamburg in March 2021 and started with us.”
“Software development is our focus, and we need more support here in the future. In addition, also in the area of marketing and sales. And preferably in a timely manner, because we notice every day that the demand for our solution is extreme,” reports Lennard. This is also constantly apparent from the reaction of the energy suppliers when the founders present their business idea to them: “They would love to use our software immediately! Also because of today’s challenges regarding the environment and energy supply: They have to be able to react flexibly. The energy supply system is also becoming more and more complex, especially due to regulations, weather dependency and various other possible complications. And here our software should adapt as flexibly as possible to the circumstances. We sell financial planning security: if a business model disappears, alternatives remain as an option,” says Lennard about the advantages of the Suena software.
But the start-up also feels pressure regarding possible competitors. The founders have conducted an extensive market analysis in this regard: “That’s why we also need follow-up financing in a timely manner. We are interested in InnoRampUp. We are also in regular talks with investors and business angels,” Tom reports. In order to gain a standing with potential financiers, the founders are planning a timely pilot project on a battery storage system of a wind farm operator.
In the beginning there was a developmental idea
Originally, Lennard and Miguel wanted to promote sustainable global electrification. Especially in developing countries. “But through the needs assessment we are now here,” Lennard states soberly. At the time, the founders had contact with a Vietnamese energy supplier regarding solar power supply, but nothing developed from that. The trio does not want to lose sight of the general goal, however, and to this end they also want to cooperate with the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ). Initially, however, the focus will be on the German market. “Changes usually happen more quickly when things become financially worthwhile. Like we are doing now with the energy storage systems,” Miguel emphasises. As far as potential success is concerned, founding advisor Dr Andrea Otto is enthusiastic about the entrepreneurial spirit of the young start-up: “Suena is already very active in the market, networks well and is receiving extremely positive feedback for the pilot project.” In the long term, the founders want to develop more than “just” software for energy storage systems. The name Suena stands for SUstainable ENergy Applications. And that’s a broad term the founders have their sights set on.