What’s it all about?

Martin Baart has a passion to bring solar projects to the Commercial and Industrial (C&I) sector in emerging markets. Fighting against local misconceptions about what solar can do, and bigger issues around how to fund such projects, they found a solution through crowdfunding, and transparency in all areas of the business. Martin and ecoligo have a great business and story to tell.

About our guest

Martin Baart has more than 14 years of experience in the renewable energy industry with more than 10 years in emerging markets. He started his career with a German regional municipality on grid integration of grid-scale solar PV projects. During his Masters he lived and worked in Australia for the global leader in Microgrids, Powercorp, on the technical integration of solar and wind solutions into Microgrids, mainly for remote communities, mining operations and island utilities. Moving into business development he opened up the European office for Powercorp. After successfully entering the market, he supported the management in its sale of the business to ABB. For ABB he build up the Microgrid business unit in Madrid, after which he left to join Berlin based Start-up OneShore Energy as CTO and first employee. With them he developed the East African markets and technologies suited for the risk minimization of Off-Grid Solar PPA’S. After building up the company, he left in 2015 to prepare for the foundation of ecoligo, addressing the key barrier for solar projects in emerging markets: a fully serviced and financed solution, taking away all worries from the clients. Since then, he led the business into regional hubs in Central America, West Africa and East Africa and introduced the solution also for energy efficiency projects in the markets.

Martin is a qualified Electronics Technician, has a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering from Trier University of Applied Science, a Master of Business and Engineering from Steinbeis University in Berlin and a Global Executive Master of Business Administration from IE business school in Madrid. He also is a Certified Expert for Climate & Renewable Energy Finance from Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.

ecoligo provides a fully financed solar-as-a-service solution for businesses in emerging markets. With a complete digital platform for financing and delivering solar projects, ecoligo removes the barriers that prevent such projects from being realised. Supplying businesses with affordable electricity enables them to grow and boost the local economy. The solar projects are financed through the crowdinvesting platform, offering fixed and attractive returns to private investors. Investments start from 100€ and save tonnes of CO2 emissions, enabling impactful citizen participation in the global energy transition.

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As part of my selection for #LinkedInTopVoices 2018, I was asked to write something about me that isn’t on my LinkedIn profile. This came to mind.

At the end of 2007, after 17 years in executive search, I co-founded, along with Mike Clarke, a renewable energy installation company. In May of 2008 we passed our MCS accreditation to install Solar PV and Small Wind (we later added heat pumps and solar thermal). Things were slow, pre Feed in Tariffs, but we worked for some committed small businesses and home-owners. One day in the office I received a call from someone saying he was representing Bear Grylls and had a site they wanted to power through renewables. Now, I don’t watch much TV, so I wrote on my pad ‘Bear Grills restaurant’ and took some notes.

Long and short, it wasn’t a restaurant, but survival TV specialist, ex SAS and Ultra Boy Scout Bear Grylls, who has a small island, just off of the North Wales coast. He was conjoining the light house keepers cottage with an outbuilding, and wanted to have some power beyond the Genset on site. We designed a system incorporating a 3kw wind turbine from Proven Energy, as they were, and a 2 kWp PV array, Sanyo/Panasonic panels, and an SMA inverter, complete with heat/power dumps (batteries weren’t really a thing at the time), and back-up provided with the Genset on site.

The first trip to site was via a very slow boat, tools and all, from a local harbour. Now, I can just about wire a plug, and I’ve never been one for hard physical work, but I took the opportunity to tag along as a labourer (we ended up with 50 staff, but had about 4 at the time).

The next trip we were collected by Bear himself, in a super fast Rib. I arrived at the island on that occasion very wet and sea-sick. Never before or since have I had such a firm handshake from a man introducing himself “Hi, I’m Bear”.

It’s fair to say it wasn’t just power that was being improved on site, though I’m not sure how much use the toilet in the picture got use before the renovations. Great view though, and fresh smelling!

I learned a few things from this project. Many actually. Firstly, tradespeople deserve huge respect for the hard work they do, sometimes in unforgiving weather or circumstances. On this occasion the weather was scorching blue skies with very little shelter. The two litres of water I’d brought didn’t last long, and I suffered terribly with dehydration. The next day felt like the biggest hang-over ever, despite not a drop of alcohol being drunk. Lesson two, drink lots of water.

The two biggest lessons though were to see in action just how renewable technologies can bring power to remote, off-grid places, and that that could be, and is extended to homes, factories and buildings, as we later did as a company. I saw decentralised energy in action for the first time. And loved it. It was inspiring.

The biggest lesson of all though was that I could dedicate my career to clean energy and clean technology, building companies, as I did then, and as I am doing now, both directly and vicariously with Hyperion Executive Search. Making a good living, and making a difference to the world in which we all live.

We all know the climate and pollution challenges we face in the world today. We all know at times the odds seem insurmountable, but I know I can look my children in the eyes and tell them I did what I could. I’ve installed many MW’s of renewables, and am now supporting some of the best cleantech businesses on the planet to grow and succeed. Best of all we’ve created a brilliant team of like minded individuals at Hyperion, and on a daily basis we meet, speak to and support others who share our beliefs, passions and hope for a better, cleaner future. All thanks, in some part, to Bear Grylls.