Powerstar celebrates two decades providing energy management systems and critical power solutions

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Posted by: electime      20th July 2021

Since starting as a consultancy in 2001, Powerstar has grown to become one of the UK’s leading energy storage and resilience specialists, with products and technologies engineered in the UK and exported to more than 20 countries, worldwide. Dr. Alex Mardapittas, Powerstar’s founder and CEO, reflects on the challenges of a changing energy landscape and looks to the net zero future.

Powerstar’s original offering was founded on energy management, engineering and consultancy services to help businesses become more energy efficient.  With a range of six products, the company has always focused on environmental concerns, and early awards included the Business Award of the Care4Air Award in recognition of manufacturing solutions that help reduce carbon emissions, as well as a Smart DTi Award for innovation in technology. However, it soon became apparent that growth and success was leading to the end of consultancy.  Alex explains,

“Twenty years ago, we were going into companies with a view to ‘curing’ their energy problems – looking at lighting, air, power, we developed a whole range of products.  However, within a few years the Powerstar voltage optimisation solution was completely dominating our business.  As any small to medium sized enterprise usually does, we decided to focus on the products that were most successful.  By 2007, we found there was so much demand for the Powerstar products that we couldn’t really go into companies calling ourselves independent consultants anymore since businesses wanted us to provide them with our own products.  We made a decision, and it was a hard one – we started saying ‘no’ to potential customers and concentrated on the Powerstar voltage optimisation and energy management solutions.  It’s difficult to say no to work, but it was the right decision, and we grew from strength to strength.”

Trends within the energy market can be difficult to navigate and, as a solutions provider, it is critical to keep ahead in research to be able to meet customer demands.  From 2012 onwards, Powerstar observed a growing interest in energy storage solutions and, with the assistance of a £1.6 million EU grant, they were able to expand from purely voltage optimisation products, changing and developing new product lines. Implemented in 2015, Powerstar’s first energy storage application with UPS (uninterruptible power supply) for Asda is still operating today and is supporting a business-critical site for the retailer’s fully-automated logistics. When Powerstar launched the VIRTUE energy storage system in 2015 it was revolutionary and won the company the top accolade in European Utility Week, as ‘European product innovation of the year’, as well as winning the category award for ‘renewable energy & grid innovation’ and being shortlisted in the energy storage category.  Rare as it is for a product to be nominated for three awards, it was outstanding to win two and, capitalising on this success and on the strengths of the product, Powerstar maintained the company’s research and development strategy.  However, Alex cautions the following of trends in the energy market,

“We focused very much on meeting the demand that was evident for energy storage solutions. But, perhaps with hindsight, some of this was ‘smoke’ – with people thinking that every building, every house, would need energy storage systems.  Which led to a lot of competition, of course.  I would say that the market we were aiming to penetrate – for energy storage – largely disappeared when, in 2018, the National Grid changed procurement around battery energy storage systems. So, there was no real ‘fire’. And this is really where power resilience comes in. We refocused on the strengths of our products, and our solutions are very much based on power resilience, providing seamless UPS capabilities, plus voltage resilience.”

While the energy storage market itself may not have lived up to some of the hype around the potential for exponential growth, there are definite changes to the energy landscape and to the overarching focus on net zero, particularly within the Industry 4.0 environment.  As a signal of this, Powerstar have just completed their second financial year within the Covid-19 pandemic and, even in these difficult and extraordinary times, the company has the most work in progress and orders in hand in their twenty-year history. Alex considers the reasons for this success,

“As we move away from fossil fuel generation – we are doing this now, and last year nearly forty percent of our generation as UK PLC was from renewables – people are realising the importance of a solution like ours.  As we shift from ‘reliable’ generation into unpredictable power generation, the Grid needs to rebalance and, during that rebalancing process, there will be issues for the power resilience of the country.  And a lot of organisations rely on power resilience, so are now coming to us asking for Powerstar solutions.”

With the UK Government’s target of an 80 per cent reduction in CO2 by 2035, businesses are increasingly realising the need for smart microgrid solutions, from the expansion of the EV sector – both for commercial vehicle fleets and for customer and employee needs – to the risks of power disruption in a world of intermittent energy generation and as local generation grows.  As power failures risk an average loss of £2.8 million per business per year, the capacity for flexible generation and a flexible way of utilising power will enable businesses to move into a net zero environment more quickly and with confidence.  Looking to this future, Alex comments,

“Our main emphasis, and the focus of our research and development, is to provide the resilience that is so vital to business and especially to those organisations for whom a blip in power supply has major impacts. However, the benefit of energy storage technology is that you can achieve this while simultaneously providing other benefits, such as renewable firming, supporting EV charging, and even earning revenue from grid contracts – making it an ideal power resilience solution for a net zero future.  For us, as a company, I think the pivotal moment was moving from consultancy to become a manufacturer.  Investing in and taking on the significant costs involved – the unknown costs associated with research and development – proved to be a timely strategic move.  The trust we have in our team, knowing that everybody in the company is working towards a common purpose, has brought us the right results.  In the Wild West, they used to say that the pioneers got all the arrows and then they found the gold.  This is where we are at now: we know that our solutions are right for the current environment and for the next twenty years, and so we look forward to continued growth and expansion.”

For more information about Powerstar’s power resilience solutions please contact: E: [email protected] T: 0333 230 1327    W: www.powerstar.com

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