Talking Small Biz: Green and powerful

Viridity Energy chief Audrey Zibelman.
Viridity Energy chief Audrey Zibelman.
Posted: November 27, 2012

Audrey Zibelman, 55, of Center City is chairman, president and chief executive officer of Viridity Energy. The company, which she and a partner founded in 2008 and now has 52 employees, helps large energy consumers reduce usage by managing load and integrating advanced technologies.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for the company?

A: I was COO for a company that operates the power grid for markets on the East Coast. To have low-cost, reliable and environmentally friendly electricity, we needed technology to change.

Q: How did you come up with the name Viridity?

A: It's Latin for the state of being green. Being green does not mean being uneconomic, and linking it to making money was a way to get people thinking differently.

Q: What exactly does your software do for the customer?

A: It's a real-time decision tool, and we monitor our customers' consumption of power all day. The price of electricity for large consumers is based on how much energy they consume but also their peak monthly usage. And if their peak is high when the system peaks, they pay what is called a demand charge, which can be very high. We help them shift usage off peak and sell the energy savings back to the grid.

Q: You have a real-time example of how this works, right?

A: One of SEPTA's biggest energy issues is the subway trains, because they're all electric. As the trains brake, they produce energy, and as they accelerate, they consume energy. They produce about 150 percent more energy when they decelerate than they need when they accelerate. So SEPTA had a surplus of power they had to get rid of, and they basically dumped it into a resistor. We said, "We can take that stored energy and sell it back to the market, which is useful for the grid and a good revenue source for you." It helps SEPTA reduce operating expenses by $400,000 to $500,000 a year. You're taking an organization that was a net consumer of energy to [become] a consumer and producer of energy, and doing it in a green way.

Q: A Japanese company, Mitsui, recently invested $15 million in Viridity. How'd that come about and what's it mean for you?

A: Mitsui is a trading company. They were looking for a partner in the U.S. They approached us about using our platform and adapting it to the needs of Asia and elsewhere. It's going to help us grow immensely.


Twitter: @MHinkelman

Phone: 215-854-2656

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