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IdeaSpace backed Filipino startup Wegen wants to become a global player in energy

Team YS
31st Jul 2013
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The companies that we all look up to today in awe were startups years back. And many of them had the first mover advantage in the space they ventured into. We are again witness to some startups moving along in the same direction. We recently came across Philippines startup Wegen, that has developed an innovative wind turbine technology which has won accolades from GE and Intel. Wegen is founded by young entrepreneur Karl Ivan E. Estadola and his two friends from college. It is backed by Philippines’ incubator IdeaSpace.

Karl says that Filipino consumers are burdened with high cost and unreliable supply of electricity. The difficult terrain of the country and its dependency on oil result in high cost of power. “We rank third globally in terms of price of electricity. We lack the option to choose the power provider mainly because of monopolized practice and lack of competition in the field of energy in Philippines,” says Karl. But if Wegen succeeds in its ambition, it will significantly improve the lives of Filipinos by providing clean and cheap electricity through their innovative wind turbine.

Karl started work on the idea as a student of electrical engineering at Adamson University, where the wind turbine was his project thesis. What was conceptualized for a college project turned into something big, when Karl and teammates realized the potential of the idea they had embarked upon. When he was searching for industry sponsors to develop the technology, he saw a very positive response from wind industry experts and that further cemented his belief in his venture. Along the way, he also learnt about IdeaSpace, and joined the competition and eventually won it.

Currently, the Wegen team is doing further improvements on their proprietary technology, to be able to make it ready for entry into global markets. Wegen will cater to commercial establishments with good wind availability and high energy consumption. Initially their focus, says Karl will be on resorts not included in the main grid or those resorts which are powered by oil. “Around 114 resorts all over the Philippines are just island grid connected. Locations like Mindoro, Boracay, Panay and Palawan have the most expensive electricity rates (e.g. 25php/kwh in Panay). But these also have the most wind resource in Philippines according to National Renewable Energy Laboratory,” explains Karl.

While the venture has been funded by IdeaSpace, they are scouting for opportunities from other partners as well. They have raised 500,000 Pesos from IdeaSpace, and are looking to raise an additional 20 Million Pesos.

Wegen’s innovative design helps captures more power than what the conventional turbine is able to. And their technology aims to lower electricity cost by using counter rotation of rotors. As the power is being generated in an efficient manner, they will be able to provide it to consumers at a cheaper cost, says Karl. “We know that our clients cannot afford the upfront cost of the technology. To solve this problem, we will implement power purchase agreement, where we will install the technology for free and clients only pay us for the power generated by the turbine. Thus, we provide power in a clean, cost effective and accessible way,” he says.

Karl claims that consumers will be able to save around Php240,870 – Php370,440 annually and says the clean and renewable energy they produce will lessen the carbon footprint significantly. Wegen will provide a payback period of 3-7 years for establishments opting for their solution. Their efforts also convinced GE International to give them a spot in the Top 20 finalists in Arctic Innovative, an international competition based in Alaska, USA.

The big audacious goal that the startup has set for itself is, to be a global player in electricity. However they know they will need significant finance support if they want to grow. Therefore the plan B they have, is to license the technology to interested multinational companies to raise sufficient capital to fund their own ambitions.

The founder’s passion to find alternate energy sources was palpable during the conversation. What is furthermore interesting is that startup incubators like IdeaSpace are backing innovative and long shot ideas like Wegen. We wish them both all the best!

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