As the world tries to move in the direction of a more sustainable future, renewable forms of energy like wind, hydrogen, and solar have become increasingly relevant, especially right here at the University of Delaware. We recently launched a multi-million dollar Center for Clean Hydrogen, and have been a leader in solar energy research for almost a half-century, hosting a state-of-the-art working photovoltaic array as well as the state of Delaware’s largest solar panel installation. Capturing energy from the rays of sunshine that shine down on UD’s Field House and converting them into electricity, the solar project produces an estimated 1,035,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually and reduces the University’s carbon footprint by an estimated 1.8 million pounds of carbon dioxide every year. But how can the average person who can’t afford to install panels leverage solar power to meet their energy needs?
Most people pay a large lump sum of money each month to large electric companies that use natural gas, nuclear energy, or coal to provide electricity, as they don’t have another source of energy that is more sustainable and wallet-friendly. That is exactly what Little Bob Technologies wants to provide for middle and low-income people, empowering them to escape the grip of electricity corporations through community-based solar power.
Subscribing to Clean Energy
Based in Newark, Delaware, Little Bob Technologies is a startup in the solar industry that originated in June 2022 when it was founded by CEO Garrison Davis. Little Bob Technologies wants to partner with organizations and underserved low and middle-income communities to develop and invest in local solar projects in the effort of supporting a widespread transition to renewable electricity.
These community solar projects would be much more accessible for everyday people, while allowing underserved populations to become owners in projects and collect any profits that they might generate. Subscribers to the project are awarded ownership shares every time they pay their subscription fee. As a subscriber in the project, the monthly subscription fee grants you a portion of the electricity generated. The subscription fee would be less than the retail price a consumer would normally pay if they were purchasing the same amount of electricity from the local utility, thus providing the opportunity for savings. Non-subscribers can participate by investing using one of several payment methods which would allow them to contribute funds based on their own timeline and financial capacity.
If a subscriber uses more electricity than is allotted to them then they will be charged by the utility, at normal rates, for the difference. If subscribers are able to stay under their monthly allotment, then not only will their only expense be the subscription fee, but the electricity not used can then be sold back onto the grid, with the profits being dispersed among owner-shareholders.
Davis describes this unique business model to be similar to how TOMS shoes work. Just like how you don't directly give a pair of shoes to a child with your purchase, you don't directly utilize the energy from the plant either. It's more so a credit system.
“Just like with TOM shoes. For every shoe that you buy, you're donating a shoe to a child in another country. Now you're not physically giving that child that shoe, but that shoe is being credited to you so the more shoes bought the more shoes that other children have. It's a similar concept. You're not literally using the electricity that's being generated from that specific solar project, but that electricity is being attributed or credited to you.” said Davis.
Who is Garrison Davis
Davis is a solar developer, clean energy entrepreneur, and ‘21 Peace Corps Coverdell (CELI) fellow in addition to the founder and CEO of Little Bob Technologies. His academic background consists of graduating from Ohio Wesleyan University Co’13 majoring in Political Science and Government, UD Co’18 with a BS in Organization and Community Leadership, and lastly UD Co’22 with a MS in International Business. He got involved with Horn during his graduate years and was a 2022 Summer Founder and 2022 Hen Hatch Semifinalist/Finalist.
Davis has been interested in renewable energy for as long as he can remember, and first decided to try his hand at a renewable energy project for a class during his undergraduate years at UD. He decided to build bicycles that generate electricity to be installed in the Little Bob building, hence the now-used name “Little Bob Technologies”. Despite the project not quite panning out, that project still solidified Davis’s passion for renewable energy and entrepreneurship, which would later be furthered by a tragic personal accident that happened.
“Summer of 2021 is when my house actually burned down. And from that, so many people supported me and donated to help me. I was so grateful for all the support I got but I knew I couldn't pay them back. I didn't know that through renewable electricity money could be made. I figured, there are people out there who are also in need and if people were willing to give their money to me for free, would they be willing to give money to a project that would ultimately help their life in exchange.” said Davis.
The accident showed Davis the power of a community coming together to financially fund something worth it to them. This is where the concept of crowdfunding/investing came about in the business model of his startup.
Be Empowered By Solar Power
Little Bob Technologies is more than just renewable electricity, it is about people. The company’s website echoes that sentiment, sharing in their vision statement, “We see a future where underserved communities are strengthened and empowered by the ability to own electricity generating assets which power their communities.” Their business model promotes education, community ownership and empowerment. With the help of Little Bob Technologies, people in these communities can hopefully be saved from the burden of energy costs and get the chance to become owners of energy producing assets.
Run by a hardworking and ambitious CEO in Davis, Little Bob Technologies has been making tremendous strides every day. They are currently working on a project with The Elmore Bolling Initiative (TEBI), where they will take a 150 year old school house built by former slaves in Alabama and convert it to using renewable electricity and support it’s transition to becoming a community tech center and museum. There are also clear goals for the startup to ultimately lead to a successful launch in the future. Those include executing on MVP, conducting plenty of solution interviews for feedback, and having a V1 prototype by the end of the third quarter in 2023.
“I want to educate people about renewable electricity and get people to understand the potential in it centered around social justice and collective ownership,” said Davis. “It's really important that people start to understand that we have the power to change our lives. We don't have to wait on anybody.”
About Horn Entrepreneurship
Horn Entrepreneurship serves as the creative engine for entrepreneurship education and advancement at the University of Delaware. Currently ranked among the best entrepreneurship programs in the US, Horn Entrepreneurship was built and is actively supported by successful entrepreneurs, empowering aspiring innovators as they pursue new ideas for a better world.