Meet the Team – Timna Zemel
Timna Zemel is a systems integration analyst who works out of our Denver office. She loves diving deeply into the details of where and why SimpliPhi batteries work best, building financial models and calculators that capture the true costs associated with differing battery solutions and generation sources, particularly in the C&I markets. Of growing importance are the often hidden but very real costs of lithium cobalt-based batteries (NMC & NCA) that require ancillary equipment, such as thermal monitoring, ambient air-conditioning and fire suppression systems. Timna can most often be found crunching numbers and helping customers understand the best use cases and economic advantages for SimpliPhi products.
Tell us a bit about your route to SimpliPhi—how did you get to a battery company, specifically this one?
I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area; discussion about the Earth’s limited resources and the environmental impact of our actions was all around me from a young age. My dad originally worked making printed circuit boards in Silicon Valley and from there transitioned to work in solar panel manufacturing at SunPower. He got me an internship there while I was in college. My work in the solar photovoltaic industry continued at Sunrun, where I became acquainted with the importance of policy in the industry and the hurdles faced when simultaneously relying on and competing with the same entity: the utility company. I was intrigued by solar and battery systems as the technological solution to many of these issues, but at that time many colleagues dismissed batteries as expensive and impractical. Moving to Colorado presented me with a less urban environment, and I took the opportunity to venture into off-grid solar and battery systems. I appreciated the independence these systems afforded their owners. The systems were also interesting to me because of the added complexity in the system design (as compared with grid-tie solar photovoltaic systems). I spent a few years working at a very small battery company, selling, supporting and occasionally going on-site to install solar + battery systems. After that, I needed to take a breather. After some time off, I was happy to re-focus my energy, taking the job at SimpliPhi.
Can you share some details on your average day and how you spend most of your time?
I get up at the crack of dawn and run five miles every other day. I’ve gotten my time down to 45 minutes in the past half year, and I’ve set my goal for five in 35 before the end of 2019. When I get back home from my run, I eat an egg on toast, then it’s a blur of coffee, phone calls and emails…
Every company needs some numbers geeks and we know that’s your sweet spot—where does this come from and what do you love about this part of your work?
Every year the average consumer sees an increase in electricity pricing from the grid. The population is increasing, each individual within the population is consuming more, and all the while the grid is becoming more antiquated. Not too long ago, a contractor called SimpliPhi with an off-grid solar + battery project that the utility company had hired him to install. To the utility company, the repairs and maintenance that they would have had to perform on their own infrastructure to power this particular residence was not worth the expense, compared with the cost of a brand new off-grid system at the site. The economic argument for Distributed Energy Resources is already all around us. I get excited about helping the average consumer get in on this opportunity too. Every day there is an increasing number of scenarios where the financials for DERs pencil out. I can help folks figure out whether or not they’re in that situation. The utility companies have already done the math, shouldn’t we too?
What did you major in college and did it prepare you for what you do now?
I have an Environmental Economics degree from UC Berkeley and now I do economic analyses for renewable energy systems, so my education definitely provided me with the fundamentals in the focus of my work with SimpliPhi Power.
How do you live the SimpliPhi life outside work?
SimpliPhi batteries are a solid, reliable product. And moving forward into the age of de-centralized power systems, I think that products like the batteries that SimpliPhi provides are going to become increasingly important in people’s daily lives. I want to make sure that these products and new implementations work and don’t leave people in the dark. SimpliPhi’s non-toxic lithium ferro phosphate batteries allow people to be secure about their energy, on grid or off, without taking on the risk of toxicity or thermal runaway, which undermines the whole idea of security.
What’s your key strength, and if you even have one, a weakness?
My key strength is that I am driven to make the energy infrastructure of the American population work. My key weakness is getting stressed.
What is the most commonly asked question your hear from SimpliPhi customers?
Is this normal? It takes time to learn the ins and outs of new technology, so customers frequently ask if what they’re observing in their power systems is aligned with what they should expect to see.
Use your crystal ball—where do you see the energy storage market in five years?
We can already see that there will be a widespread adoption of distributed energy storage within the next five years. I predict a significant increase in battery production, creating more jobs within the United States as well as abroad (the two don’t need to be mutually exclusive). Economic growth within the sustainable energy sector is critical to the future of the planet and the global economy. Batteries + renewable generation make greater adoption of clean energy more prevalent since storage removes the intermittency associated with wind and solar. But batteries also remove the increasing intermittency of our grid. In California alone, utilities have announced planned “Public Safety Shutdowns” in areas ravaged by drought and high-winds, which equates to approximately 11 million people. Batteries can provide energy security and resilience for customers that are grid-tied, whether or not they have solar on their roofs. So energy storage is going to grow exponentially – it optimizes any generation source.
What is something most people would be surprised to learn about you?
Getting into batteries and solar has fueled my interest in space exploration.
Colorado is a beautiful place where it is still affordable for working class people to live.
What do you do for fun?
I like to ride my bicycle.