Clear Blue Technologies was founded in 2011 with a vision to deliver clean, managed, off-grid power that is both reliable and low cost to markets across the globe. Fast forward to today and this Toronto-based company is doing just that thanks to its innovative Smart Off-Grid technology — the world's first smart off-grid system designed to provide real-time, 24-7, remote control monitoring and management of solar, wind and hybrid-powered devices.

In fact, Clear Blue Technologies controls, monitors and manages more than 3,000 off-grid systems — including lighting, telecom, security, Internet of Things devices and other critical systems — for customers in 33 countries, 20 U.S. states and eight Canadian provinces where access to an electrical grid is either too costly or impossible.

Its explosive growth — 300 per cent a year — and continued success can be attributed to several factors, says Miriam Tuerk, the company's co-founder and CEO. Identifying a global need and an opportunity, combined with its proximity to high-calibre manufacturers, colleges and universities, as well as local talent and resources, all play an important role in helping this small start-up deliver a smart, reliable and clean solution.

Identifying a need

Prior to Clear Blue Technologies' launch in 2011, Tuerk's husband John, the company's co-founder and chief power officer, saw a trend: the world was going to move away from everything being connected to the grid, to the majority of power devices going off-grid. And these off-grid power systems would need to be managed and operated.

"A very large chunk of the electricity infrastructure is going to go off-grid, and we wanted to be an energy solution exporter," says Tuerk. "No electricity infrastructure anywhere in the world operates well if it's not managed."

But the solution needed to be low cost compared to grid power in order to meet global demand and enjoy widespread adoption.

"One quarter of the world's population has no power," Tuerk explains, adding that many emerging markets have a shortage of power, which is holding economies back. Add to that the fact that power is "very expensive", and it was clear that a more affordable solution was needed; one that didn't involve the significant costs associated with cabling and distribution.

From this idea, Smart Off-Grid technology was born, with assistance from researchers at Toronto's Centennial College and George Brown College, who helped the company develop the product from prototype to in-field testing.

A smart solution with many advantages

The company's Smart Off-Grid technology includes a solar/solar-hybrid controller, which operates and controls the system; a built-in communications network; and Illumience cloud software. Together, these technologies, which can work with almost any solar, battery and load, enable off-grid systems anywhere in the world to be reliably monitored, managed and controlled remotely through the cloud. And because no cabling, distribution and complicated installation are involved, costs are reduced by as much as 80 per cent.

In fact, significant installation savings is just one of the many advantages of this system. There are also maintenance savings associated with implementing the technology because there is less infrastructure (i.e., cables and power infrastructure) to maintain. In addition, the system enables higher uptime and reliability thanks to the 24-7, real-time monitoring that comes with it, which alerts customers of any issues. Another key advantage is carbon credit measurement.

"Our system tracks the carbon credits that you can use for net zero and other carbon tax benefit objectives," explains Tuerk.

Location, location, location

Smart Off-Grid technology is wholly manufactured in Ontario — both the hardware and the software are produced in the province. And there are many reasons why Ontario was chosen as Clear Blue Technologies' home, explains Tuerk.

"We have a great ecosystem of resources," she explains, "from manufacturers, to schools, to a multicultural talent pool, to funding and coaching from local organizations."

For example, she says, Ontario has a lot of capabilities in hardware manufacturing, which is why the company works with a community of local suppliers to subcontract its manufacturing. And, being based in Ontario, Clear Blue Technologies was able to get support from MARS, OCE and IRAP — important resources for start-ups because they offer access to funding, education, market research, expert advisors and coaches, sector centres of expertise and incubators.

The province is also ripe with talent thanks to its top-notch colleges and universities. In particular, Tuerk points to George Brown College, Centennial College, the University of Waterloo and the University of Toronto as local schools that have been a good source of highly skilled talent with the ability to problem solve and innovate.

Tuerk also says that the multiculturalism of the province, and its employee base, is a huge help because it enables the company to better understand its customers' environments, with roughly 80 per cent of its business in international markets.

"If you want to be in the export business and do business in international countries, being able to understand what that's all about is pretty key," she explains.

Looking forward

Today, Clear Blue Technologies is controlling and monitoring cell towers in Rwanda, Nigeria and Puerto Rico, streetlights in Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Egypt, and Wi-Fi towers in Dubai, to name a few. And the company continues to target growth of 300 per cent a year to enable more widespread adoption of its technology, whether it's with lighting, security and traffic cameras, or on cell phone towers, Wi-Fi hotspots, railroad switching stations, power, oil and gas pipelines and drilling platforms.

To meet this growing demand, Clear Blue Technologies plans to add another 10 to 15 employees to its team of 30. In addition, it plans to raise future capital through the public markets, which it believes is a great place for start-ups to access key growth capital.

Indeed, the company's future is looking bright, and Tuerk says she's very proud of the role they've played so far in enabling markets to have reliable, clean power — especially because they've been able to accomplish this from their own backyard.

"We're most proud of the fact that this little company with a small number of people and the resources of southern Ontario is managing and operating the power infrastructure of more than 3,000 independent systems in 33 countries around the world today," she says.

And this is just the beginning.


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