How did Raptor Maps, the leading solar lifecycle software company, get started at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology?  And what was the original idea that sparked it all?  This Watts Up podcast episode has the answer. 

The company developed Raptor Solar to improve solar project performance and strengthen ROI.  The software uses digital twins or maps of solar farms to aid with such tasks as verifying construction and supply chains, normalizing inspection data, streamlining warranty claims and simplifying the increasingly complex task of managing solar projects.  

Conner Allen:  So, today we interviewed the cofounder of Raptor Maps.  Had a very interesting conversation about what Raptor Maps does. 

Marie Burgquist:  If you’re really into data, if you’re into analytics, also if you’re into solar, you’ve gotten to the right place . . .  We now welcome the co-founder of Raptor Maps. 

Nikhil Vadhavkar:  Thank you for having me . . .  I’m the co-founder and CEO of Raptor Maps.  We were actually founded out of MIT and our goal is to build software to enable the solar industry to scale. 

Allen:  So, Nikhil, can you give me a little insight on what gave you the idea to really come up with this software? 

Vadhavkar:  When I met Eddie, my co-founder, we were both writing software for different entities in the aerospace world.  So I was doing thermal control system simulations for space suits for NASA and he was . . . doing some work for SpaceX as well as for the Navy.

. . . We kept our eye on big trends in aerospace and software.  I actually, a couple years before that, had had a grant from the Gates Foundation to build and deploy unmanned aerial vehicles or drones for emergency medical supply delivery.

So I was getting familiar with the revolutions in remote sensing.  And what we realized was that there was a big opportunity to basically digitize assets that were geospatially distributed and then run machine learning on all of these new types of data in order to bring it all together in one platform.  So there were a lot of enabling technologies.

What got us into solar was, as you guys know and have experienced, was that the really great thing for solar is that it’s come down the cost curve.

Solar is going to be 20% of the carbon offset solution for climate change.

So you’ve got solar being deployed at a faster rate than ever before.  Part of that driving force is the lower levelized cost of electricity.

What that means is the models are tighter, the operations and maintenance budgets are tighter, and you’ve got to do more with less.  

Where that really brings Raptor Maps into the picture is that we saw that a lot of O&M companies in particular . . .  were purchasing drones, $20,000-$30,000 drones.  They were getting credentials for their technicians and they were flying [drones] over solar farms in order to replace the old, dirty, dangerous, manual testing that was required.  And it looked really promising.

They didn’t have any software infrastructure to do it at scale.  And so that’s really where they came to us and said, “Looks like you guys are doing some pretty interesting work that could be relevant.  Can you help us scale?” 

The more we looked into it, the more we said, “Yeah, this is exactly what we need to be doing.  This is our calling.”  

Burgquist:  Can you tell us about how Raptor Solar can help scale the solar industry?

Vadhavkar:  The solar industry, if you look at it historically, was built by accountants and lawyers.  And that makes a lot of sense, right, when you’ve got high subsidies and smaller projects.  But from a scalability standpoint, documentation standpoint, optimization standpoint, that doesn’t work any more, right?

We’re going to have $6.4 trillion going into this industry in the coming decades.  And so, fundamentally, when we think about Raptor Maps and Raptor Solar, which is our software platform, we think about the data model and think about, “How do you build up a digital twin not just of a solar farm, commercial and industrial or utility-scale, but have a portfolio, an interoperable system for the entire industry?”

What Raptor Solar is and the way it works is that we create a digital model of an asset and then we’re able to, in a highly-structured way, layer in things like inspection results, time-series data [and] the production or the weather data, for example, from onsite sensors.  We can layer in equipment records like serial numbers and other sorts of documentation for supply chain verification and validation.

And very importantly, these types of data, because they’re in a structured data model, [are] not in isolation.  By combining them, by querying them in a certain way, we can . . .  unlock value and automate things that enable our customers, both owners, operators and builders, to optimize their systems.   


This is a snapshot of the interview, transcribed partially and edited lightly.  

You can listen to the rest of the podcast on a variety of services via Anchor.  

Watts Up is produced by GRNE Solar, which is a customer of Raptor Maps. 


About Raptor Maps  

Raptor Maps offers an advanced software platform to standardize data, analyze insights and collaborate across solar.  Commissioning info, serial number mapping, equipment records, inspections, aerial thermography, warranty claims, mobile tools and more — all powered by our industry-leading data model.  Intelligence for the entire solar industry — asset owners, managers, O&M, engineers, EPCs, financiers and OEMs.  Standardize and compare data across installations, increase performance and reduce costs.