Sazmining Podcast Episode 2: Benoy Thanjan on Green Energy

Synopsis: In Episode 2 of the Sazmining Podcast, Will speaks with Benoy Thanjan, CEO of Reneu Energy. They discuss how each type of energy impacts the environment, future energy technologies that excite Benoy, contrasting energy policies across the world, and much more.

Will Szamosszegi (00:04):

Welcome to the SA mining podcast at SA mining, we are bringing you into conversations with today's industry leaders and blockchain and cryptocurrency. Our goal with this podcast is to improve the understanding and adoption of blockchain and cryptocurrency by giving you an insider's look at what's being built and inform predictions on what the future holds.

Will Szamosszegi (00:25):

William

Will Szamosszegi (00:27):

Simi is the CEO and founder of SA mining, Inc. All opinions expressed by William or his Gus on this podcast are solely their opinions and do not reflect the opinions of SA mining. You should not treat any opinion expressed by William as a specific recommendation to make a particular investment or follow a particular strategy, but only as an expression of his opinion, this podcast is for informational purposes. Only

Will Szamosszegi (00:53):

Today's episode is sponsored by block by and cogent law group. Our listeners can visit block by.com/sa mining for an exclusive offer for cryptocurrency management and check out cogent law group for all your legal needs. The north engine is the founder and CEO of renew energy, and he is also an advisor for several solar startup companies. He was the S R E C trader in the project finance group for solar city, which merged with Tesla in 2016. Benoy was the vice president at Vanguard energy partners. He also worked for Ridgewood renewable power, his extensive financial experience in the renewable energy industry and in the environmental commodities markets

Will Szamosszegi (01:37):

With all that said, I'd like to welcome you. Benoy the podcast.

Benoy Thanjan (01:42):

Thanks will for having me on the podcast. I'm excited to be be here and, uh, congrats on the start of your podcast. So, uh, it was great to talk to you about yes. How it kinda happened and where you are today with it.

Will Szamosszegi (01:54):

Yeah, season definitely. I mean, I've been very, very excited for this conversation in particular. I mean, but your background is incredible. You're one of the experts in this industry, uh, particularly in solar and you also, as you mentioned, have your own podcast, the solar Maverick podcast to start things off. Can you just talk about your journey in this industry and how you got to where you are today?

Benoy Thanjan (02:17):

Sure. It's been an amazing journey and I can't believe how quickly it's happened. I mean, really, um, my first job outta graduate school was at Deloitte and touches, which, um, was like internship. And then I, uh, ended up getting a full-time job after the summer was over in their energy group and their energy financial advisory services practice. I was more on the sell side consulting side, but I really wanted to move to the buy side. And I ended up going to a company called Ridgewood renewable power, where I ended up analyzing investments in, uh, renewable energy projects. And I thought at that time that was like, wow. Uh, 10 years ago, 11 years ago that solar is gonna really grow exponentially based on my research. And then I wanted to get a job in the solar industry. So I ended up working at this company called Vanguard energy partners, which is an, uh, installer of commercial industrial and utilities, sales, solar.

Benoy Thanjan (03:11):

And I was in their project finance group. And then, um, I then went to a solar city Tesla, and that was like an amazing experience because this was before they were a publicly traded company. And I was actually, um, you mentioned Sr S R CS, which are solar, renewable energy credits. That's an incentive in the Northeast states to incentive solar development. So that was a helping solar city where they're expansion into the Northeast markets. And then I also worked for Linden rive who was actually the CEO of solar city, but he was also head of the project finance group he's Elon's, uh, cousin. So, uh, you know, it was just like really getting a great sort of experience. And then I decided to start my own company, uh, in 2012, we first started as a consulting company and, uh, we also developed projects and it's been now 12 years in the renewable energy industry and you're considered a veteran, you know, because, uh, it's such a new industry as like what you are in cryptocurrency and mining. It's so new. So I could really, uh, you know, relate because you're you're trailblazing and new industry and new services.

Will Szamosszegi (04:19):

Yeah, yeah, definitely. Well, what you guys are doing at renew energy is really, really interesting. Can you talk a little bit more about what your, your, what the projects that you're working on with renew energy are actually like and how your company's involved?

Benoy Thanjan (04:33):

Sure. So initially we were just a consulting company and we're just trying to figure out how to add value in the industry. So we first, uh, got started in the, these rec markets or SSCs. And basically at this point, we manage about like 12 megawatts worth of projects that we do, like SRE management for. We also help our clients sell those Rex. And then we actually do research as well and pricing because it's, um, um, one of the big economic drivers of solar projects in the Northeast, in the states that we're talking about, and then we also source financing for projects. So there's about 13 megawatts of projects under construction today where we've either helped the investor or developer and sourcing financing for the project. And then we also now develop commercial industrial and utility scale projects. So we felt like two years ago that, Hey, we're helping all these developers and investors in different parts of the puzzle.

Benoy Thanjan (05:30):

Why not, why we should be able to do that ourselves. So we're actually doing the first community solar project with the New York housing authority on 20 different rooftops in, uh, New York city. And then we actually partnered with the European developer, uh, where we're developing 150 to 250 megawatts of community solar projects in New York, where we're basically, you know, educating them through the process, partnering on different things. They have experience developing all over the world and then, but New York and each state is just so unique when you're developing a project, which I'm sure you understand what you guys are doing as well.

Will Szamosszegi (06:10):

Yeah, definitely. And one of the things that I, I definitely want to dive into more depth on, uh, just after hearing about all the different business segments that you guys touch with renew energy sure. Is that, is that financing piece, right? Because I mean, our industry we're in cryptocurrency mining, there are different types of payback periods, different types of ways where you try and retire the debt over time compared to solar. How are you looking at the structuring of these different financial projects for these solar, uh, for these solar companies?

Benoy Thanjan (06:41):

Yeah, it's extremely complicated and it's unique and it depends on the counterparty and how we're. So, you know, a big part of the capital stack is like tax equity. And if people are not familiar with tax equity, that's basically you have to have a taxable income to take advantage of government tax incentives. So the big incentive in solar is like the investment tax credit. That's a 26% incentive on the cost of the solar system. And then there's accelerated depreciation, which I don't know how much I'll get into, but that really like impacts, you know, the, the capital stack. And you obviously can't take debt against that. And then there's like sponsor equity. And then obviously everyone wants to put as, you know, as much debt as they can on the project for the longest term possible. But it really depends on like the quality of the offtake, which is always like a challenge.

Benoy Thanjan (07:33):

Um, and I'm sure you experience that as well, doing like the PPA agreements that you're working on and having a credit worthy offtaker and trying to figure out solutions if it's not credit worthy, how to get the, uh, lender comfortable. And then also too, what's challenging too. What we're finding is most of these PPAs are getting to be more med in and different sort of risks, appetites and we're. But we're seeing like before it was like just a 20 year PPA one investor, and that was the way that it would get financed. But now like, like we were talking about community solar, you know, it's a residential customer, who's buying the offtake and they only have a one year commitment. And then there might be like an anchor tenant who basically takes 40% of the community, solar offtake from the project. And that's only a five to 10 year contract, not 20 years. So what we find is that it's like all completely structured, completely different, and that's what makes it extremely challenging, but then also creates an opportunity for us to add these, um, services to, to our clients. So,

Will Szamosszegi (08:37):

Yeah, definitely. And on the, on the point of view of how long these solar projects normally take to pay back the capital sure. Is that something where you you're seeing huge variability in project to project, or is it a type of approach where you know, that a solar project is normally going to be able to pay back the capital in X number of years? And so there's a somewhat understood approach of structuring these types of financial projects.

Benoy Thanjan (09:05):

That's actually a great point. Well, what we find is it's like all over the place because there's so many different, uh, variables. It really depends on like, what's the power price that's negotiated for the power purchase agreement. We talked about credit as well. You know, if you're, um, a fortune 100 company, uh, investment grade, it's a lot easier versus like a non-investment grade credit. Um, the other thing too is like the state level incentive is unique in every state. So for example, like we're in New Jersey here and they have like a 15 cent credit based on a megawatt hour production. So it based on that, that actually impacts as well, like how you structure the financing and how comfortable the financing is comfortable. So,

Will Szamosszegi (09:50):

Yeah, very, very interesting. Uh, so from your point of view, I would kick myself later on if I didn't end up asking this question. So I'll, I'll ask it right up front <laugh>, uh, because we have an expert in solar and renewable energies right here in the flesh. Uh, many times you hear people talking about the environmental impact of these different types of energy sources, so renewables versus natural gas or some other type of non-renewable energy source, how would you, from your perspective, compare the pollution caused by renewables, such as something like solar versus non-renewable energy sources like natural gas.

Benoy Thanjan (10:28):

Sure. So, I mean, it's interesting because people call natural gas like a cleaner fuel, and it's true. It is a cleaner fuel compared to obviously coal, which, you know, I'm hoping, obviously people know that's like a extremely dirty source of energy <laugh> that might not necessarily be said in, you know, by certain people who have prominent stature, but, you know, it is not a, a clean source of energy, but yes, solar energy is a clean energy, but there is a, a pollution aspect of it when you're constructing the panel. And then actually in the future, basically a solar system or, or, or panel last 20 to 30 years. So right now, like most of them are actually going into landfills. Uh, companies are coming up with, uh, ways of recycling certain components. So that's actually, you know, it's definitely cleaner than like natural gas, but yes, there is definitely some pollution that's created with the construction of these panels.

Benoy Thanjan (11:26):

And then, um, then obviously, uh, the recycling as well, but I'm hoping as you know, solars are relatively new technology and there's so much solar coming online in the past eight years that we'll get better at recycling and that will not be as big of an issue. The other thing too, it's an infinite resources resource versus like natural gas. You know, obviously the sun is shining and you know, there's so much electricity that's if you think about it, it's untapped because you don't have really solar everywhere, which I think you'll see a lot more solar, uh, well obviously over time. So that's like my thoughts about it, but that doesn't eliminate natural gas. I mean, it's still part of the energy equation. You're gonna need multiple types of power sources. You know, solar wind are very intermittent power sources, obviously with natural gas, a combined cycle that you could start at any moment. And obviously like, as storage becomes more prevalent, you know, you'll see more intermittent power sources as well.

Will Szamosszegi (12:27):

Yeah, definitely. And when you were going through that, that actually reminded me. And maybe it was because we were talking about solar city earlier in the bio, or sure you have, you have experience, but I was reminded of this one. I think speech that Elon Musk was giving where he was talking about how eventually we're going to have to make that move towards full renewable energy sources, cuz there's only so much natural gas out there, depending on whether you think it's gonna get burned up in the next a hundred years or thousand years, wherever it, wherever you stand, eventually, we're going to have to make that shift over to full, fully renewable. So I mean, we can talk in D whatever time scale you'd like, and you'd prefer to, to answer this next question in, but from your perspective, what do you think that shift from non-renewable to renewables is going to end up looking like? So I guess boiling down that question, what, what's your view of the future of green energy?

Benoy Thanjan (13:23):

Sure. Well, yeah, so I don't know when that actual transition that he's talking about is gonna happen because right now natural gas is extremely plentiful on the earth, the spec specifically, even the United States and then also the technology's actually getting a lot better where we could actually drill a lot deeper. So like the excavation, but, um, you know, the interesting thing is solar's actually getting cheaper as time goes on. And I think it's gonna be a mix of different fuel sources, intermittent power sources, and what I would say, everything's gonna be distributed in the future. It's not gonna be, you have a big power plant. And then, you know, it goes through transmission distribution lines to your home and you're turning on your electricity. How it's gonna be is it's gonna be localized and distributed energy where people might, people will have solar panels on their roof, maybe even small wind turbines.

Benoy Thanjan (14:16):

And then there's some sort of storage facility that's gonna be there. So I see it as a combination of, you know, solar, wind and storage. And there'll be obviously other technology as there's biomass, landfall gas, which, you know, obviously that's like more pollution because you're doing, you know, wood burning and, uh, uh, garbage as well. But as we recycle more materials, I think it's then you have like hydro. So I think it's just gonna be a mix of different fuel sources and then using storage and micro grids and other ways of, uh, where it's just gonna be localized and distributed energy. I just don't know when the timeframe of that's gonna happen. And I know people are hesitant to talk about nuclear after Fukushima, but you know that as well as, you know, renewable resources as well, and maybe, you know, that actually comes back because it could generate such electricity. And I think there's gonna be other technologies that we are not aware of that are gonna basically come in the future that are, are renewable resources. So

Will Szamosszegi (15:21):

Yeah, I mean, it's interesting to see how much innovation's really going on right now. I mean, you touched on one with battery storage and how that's going to absolutely change the game as those batteries get better and better and you can store more and more energy. And then there are many other technologies that are being developed right now. What are some of the, those technologies that you've seen or that you've heard people talking about that you're most excited about?

Benoy Thanjan (15:46):

Sure. So it's funny. I mean, just because we're in renewable energy, it's hard for me to keep track of all the different technologies that are happening. And then so many people are reaching out about trying different things, but, you know, I'm still like focused on like the core technologies, like as you mentioned, will like battery storage to me is gonna be a huge game changer. And specifically like lithium ion technology. That's really the technology that you're seeing most prevalent with Tesla and all the other major, uh, battery manufacturers. And the crazy thing is like we're seeing huge, exponential decreases in the cost of the batteries. So I believe in two to three years, it's gonna be a lot more economical that than it is today. And you're gonna see as well, um, uh, like electric vehicles. They're gonna be a lot cheaper in the very near future because the real cost related to the vehicle is related to the battery.

Benoy Thanjan (16:39):

So what's crazy to me is like, you know, right now you could get a Tesla at 35,000. I think, you know, it'll be a lot cheaper than that in the next two or three years, which is pretty amazing. And then solar as well. I mean the technology within these panels, uh, it's just amazing as well. It's just every year the panels are getting more, uh, higher having higher capacity and they're also getting bigger, meaning bigger as far as like the KW. So it's just like, just shocking to me. Like I just can't believe how quickly like the prices and the EF it's the same thing we were seeing with like battery with computing power. You're seeing with solar panels. So, I mean, I know this is not like everyone's kind of heard like about these technologies, but I think within these technologies, like there's a lot of technologies like innovations that are happening with like BIFA panels and other things. And it's, it's just really exciting. So

Will Szamosszegi (17:35):

Yeah, I mean, it's, it's interesting to think about also how once you suddenly introduce this new technology, how that's going to change the business landscape. So, I mean, one battery storage, that's obviously going to change the, the way that, uh, that pricing on energy looks across, uh, across the entire industry. But then another thing you mentioned was with EVs. I mean, these electric vehicles, when you have better batteries, all of a sudden these, it it's much more economical for you to go and buy an electric vehicle versus going towards some sort of, uh, I guess the vehicles we're all used to today. I mean, what my, my dad's actually working on, uh, things in the EV space and we've seen that a lot of these car manufacturers are really seriously trying to move towards electric vehicles and are playing catch up now to companies like Tesla. Who've been developing this technology since the inception.

Benoy Thanjan (18:31):

Yeah. It's really exciting. And also the cost right of the fuel from the electric for the electric vehicle is a lot cheaper than oil. So it's just, it's just, I think it's gonna be amazing like EVs and, and the electrification of, of the, the car fleet. I think you're gonna see very quickly. And I think China is requiring by 2030 all, uh, cars to be electric, which is not that far away. If you think about it.

Will Szamosszegi (18:56):

Yeah. That's, that's crazy in like one decade, all cars being electric in China. Uh, actually one thing I'm glad you brought up China for, for this discussion because I mean, the Chinese have played an enormous role within the, the development of solar energy. And it's kind of, I, I really want to just hear your perspective. Can you talk about how you view the importance of regulation and the different approach that these different countries have taken towards regulating your particular industry? How that's changed the competitive landscape between the companies and the us, uh, versus the companies in China?

Benoy Thanjan (19:35):

Yeah, I mean, that's actually a great question. That's really like interesting to me because, um, you know, the China's very different to the us when it comes to energy policy specifically like renewable energy policy. I mean, if you look at like electric, basically electric, you know, energy storage, China, the government has invested so much money into helping these, uh, I think there's a part of China. I forget the name of the city, where it's all, um, basically energy storage manufacturers and they've helped invest into the, that, that technology like billions of dollars because they believe that it's gonna be the futures. This is the same thing as well that they have done with solar panels. And which is interesting because it's like the polar opposite in the us. Like, yes, the, um, investment tax credit that I talked about is a huge incentive, uh, related to energy and solar.

Benoy Thanjan (20:29):

Now there's actually a standalone, hopefully incentive for inve the investment tax credit, but there really hasn't been like a national sort of energy policy. And in, in the us, when it comes to renewables, it's more been state by state, which is great that the states are taking that initiative, but it creates so much complexity because each state is totally unique into itself. And there's a huge learning curve. They also don't have the, the money and maybe the us government doesn't have the money as well to be able to be investing in all these different things. But I think really like China's looking at it as like a competitive advantage as they transition to renewable energy and energy storage, which I believe is competitive advantage, but I don't think at this point, like the, the, the us has taken an active role, but what's been amazing though, is we still have like, you know, leading companies in the industry we're continuing to, to adapt and, you know, we might not have the same resources from like the government, but it's still been, uh, extremely creative, like the solutions that us companies have come at when it comes to like panel technology, obviously energy storage.

Benoy Thanjan (21:38):

So

Will Szamosszegi (21:39):

Yeah, definitely

Benoy Thanjan (21:40):

Even financing.

Will Szamosszegi (21:41):

And, and that's one of the things too that I, I had heard that essentially a lot of the thoughts that you just laid out echoed where the companies in China had that sort of an advantage from the available financing to be able to grow. But a lot of the actual innovation that was happening was happening with us companies. And so it's really interesting to see how the competitive dynamic is continuing to play out because I mean, this is technically still a very, an industry in its very early stages. And I mean, you're one of the companies who's in that full time. So that, that's one of the reasons why I really wanted to hear your answer to that question. That was, that was really insightful.

Benoy Thanjan (22:22):

Yeah. That's the, uh, it was a great question. And I think a lot of people, uh, should know about it because I don't think that's really communicated to the

Will Szamosszegi (22:30):

Mainstream. Yeah, yeah. It, it doesn't seem to be talked about that much. Uh, but going into the, the actual, the actual way that you try and utilize solar or other types of renewable, uh, sources of energy for commercial use, you're dealing with a different type of approach from the, from the view of curtailment. So you don't have a consistent amount of power that's being generated at all points of the day. If the sun's shining you're, you obviously have more energy. If you're in solar versus in natural gas, you just have a certain amount of natural gas. You can utilize that for the energy. H what are some of the approaches that are being taken today by companies such as yours or others in the renewable energy industry to try and make the most of the power as it's being generated by the sun or the wind, but then in those down times, making sure that if there is a customer that you're trying to service, that you're able to get them all the energy that they need,

Benoy Thanjan (23:30):

That they need. Yeah. Def definitely. So there's like multiple sort of approaches that I've been seeing. I mean, um, what we've been seeing is obviously we talked a little bit about energy storage. I think you're gonna see a lot more of that, you know, because it's obviously solar and winter intermittent power sources. If you're able to then control how much of the solar energy or what goes into the grid, that's huge as far as when you talk about sort of curtailment issues that could happen also, um, really, um, the industry is looking for like time of use. So to basically incentivize when to basically deploy energy into the grid, I think we're also seeing as well, uh, the industry's trying to do a better job of forecasting. So basically using satellites and weather, and then using cloud computing and data to better forecast, how much output is actually gonna go into the grid and be able to communicate that with the grid operators.

Benoy Thanjan (24:31):

So then they could be better manage the load and not really curtail it. We actually were talk, I actually had a podcast interview with the company in Australia that that's actually working on that, and that's incorporated that in the us market and internationally, and then what we do like for like, like behind the meter projects, where you're actually, um, putting a solar system on a business, a rooftop, we always try to design the system where no matter what the variability of the load is that the customer will be actually using it instead of selling into the grid. So, um, you know, that helps too for the customer, because as you know is once you sell into the grid, uh, the credit that you're getting for that electricity is at wholesale rates versus the customers obviously paying a lot more than that from the utility itself.

Benoy Thanjan (25:21):

And then, um, I think those are kind of the major things that we're seeing and then, uh, contracts as well. Like, Hey, if we have excess energy, would you agree to buy this, you know, energy at a discounted price, which is obviously something that, uh, you guys are involved with with mining that we're staying, you know, companies will have like a virtual PPA with their, their main counterparty, but then offer like a discount it rate versus what the, what the utility rate is out there, or the wholesale rate, so that it incentivized because obviously it's better to get some money for the electricity than zero at nothing at all. So,

Will Szamosszegi (25:59):

Yeah, definitely. I mean, you actually touched on an important thing that, that we try and do within our business as well is just load shedding and making sure that when it, cuz with mining, you're running these machines 24 7 and uh, I mean, that's great, especially when you are okay with shutting off a certain percentage of you're you're right with shutting down your operation a certain percentage of the year. So you can maximize the amount of money that the operation can make by sending that electricity to the grid when the grid's paying extremely large amounts during those peak hours. And it's interesting to see where we're gonna see that intersection between the energy sector and the mining industry, which is what we're involved in, how that's going to play out over time. I, I mean, have you been involved or spoken with any companies in the crypto mining space? I mean, we're in an industry that's been around for just about 10 years, so we're even younger than the solar industry <laugh>

Benoy Thanjan (26:59):

Yeah, surprisingly, I haven't actually, uh, I mean, obviously you're the first crypto mining company that we've talked to, but it makes sense to me that there's a natural connection because obviously for mining, you know, energy costs is the huge expense and there's an opportunity as well. Um, and as you, you kind of mentioned great will about the energy company potentially making, well, you actually, didn't totally talk about this, but through, uh, through mining, instead of just like selling the power at a discounted rate, that they could potentially make a higher return from it. So I think it's a huge opportunity, you know, for the energy sector and especially too for like, you know, solar, like you're normally selling during peak times. What we're seeing though is so much solar is coming online that, uh, especially in California and, and Texas and certain and wind too, you're seeing that in, in Texas as well, where then you have issues with curtailment and that's gonna happen, uh, as more and more solar comes online.

Benoy Thanjan (27:58):

We're seeing that actually happening in Massachusetts as well. So I think that's huge, you know, I think there's a huge opportunity and I think what's happening at least that we're seeing, there's like non-traditional businesses approaching solar companies. You mentioned mine. And we've also been approached by cannabis companies as well. Oh yeah, because they have huge like energy usage and potentially as cannabis gets leg legalized and the energy use of growth facilities as well. And I've actually been to a grow facility in California, the, the energy usage is just like astronomical. So, you know, they're trying to figure out how to mitigate that with renewable energy as well.

Will Szamosszegi (28:36):

Yeah. Yeah. I'm, I'm interested to hear your perspective on what the landscape looks like today versus I guess pre COVID I'm sure that it's COVID has affected all parts of the world it's affected how businesses operate certain industries getting shut down. What have you noticed from the demand side and how these energy companies, business models have been impacted by the government mandated shutdown and everything else that's been happening?

Benoy Thanjan (29:04):

Yeah, it's been challenging for, for like obviously the energy companies make money based on energy demand. And obviously with a lot of people working at home instead of being at offices, energy demand has gone down, I think, uh, EIA, which is like the energy information agency said that basically during COVID electricity usage has gone down eight or 9%, which is that, which is pretty dramatic in, in just just a few months. And then also what we're seeing too is like energy prices and capacity payments as well have gone down. So that actually hurts like, you know, like, like the project economics related to, to, to projects. So, you know, it's been an interesting short sort of shift, but at the same time too, we're seeing a lot of companies with COVID are like, Hey, we have to figure out any way that we could lower our cost. So if you could do a solar project, it could lower our cost. If it's third party finance through a PPA, we definitely wanna look at it or a lease payment to use the land or unused roof for seeing to be more popular these days. Uh, because companies are trying to figure out ways of, of cutting costs. So there's been, you know, obviously both positive and negatives that have come in, but it for solar, I mean, it's still like, obviously it's still growing exponentially and

Will Szamosszegi (30:24):

Yeah,

Benoy Thanjan (30:24):

There there's been a hiccup though, though, due to COVID obviously with the development and, and, and essential construction, sometimes it not being considered in certain states as essential and then permitting and all these things taking more time.

Will Szamosszegi (30:38):

Yeah. Do you think that it's led to any new types of opportunities that might not have been there prior? And the reason why I asked this question is because I think a lot of times, uh, people will, people will go and they'll try and extrapolate what's gonna happen in the future based on the past. And so I, I saw this one, uh, unbelievable metric on, uh, on some on company's financials where they were calling it. Uh EBIDA so it was like EBIDA, but like prior to Corona. Um, and so

Benoy Thanjan (31:10):

That's funny

Will Szamosszegi (31:11):

Just basically trying to up their numbers with a whole new type of approach. And the thing that, yeah, that I think is kind of crazy is that when, when something like this happens, it's shocking and people are all wondering what the future's gonna hold. They don't know what's going to happen. But I think that this type of an event really is just changing the way that people are looking at their industry and look changing the way they look at business. I mean, you, you mentioned a very important factor that, or feature that's come of the pandemic. And it was the fact that all these companies are going to try and cut costs. They're going to try and find ways to lean out and make sure that they can keep the company profitable by the other. Um, by, by another point of view, you have another comp, many companies who are looking at new opportunities and really realizing that the landscape of business is just going to be different after this type of an event happens. For example, movie theaters, and other types of public gathering, places, sports and different industries that relate to entertainment might not be the same. Do you think that, and going back to the initial question, do you think that there's anything that has happened in, so, and maybe even in terms of a mind shift of energy executives or the way that people are approaching, uh, energy or renewable energy consumption, anything like that, where you think that there's going to be a paradigm shift in the industry and therefore potentially lead to new opportunities?

Benoy Thanjan (32:36):

Yeah. Yeah. There's a couple of different, uh, there's a great question. There's a couple of different aspects to it. I, I think what's interesting with, um, COVID 19 is obviously, you know, the countries in a recession, so states and agencies, and even, uh, are trying to figure out how to create, um, stimulus to basically, uh, help company help the economy, uh, post COVID 19. And so what we're seeing, even just this early on in COVID that some states have actually increased incentives for renewable energy, because they think that, you know, wanna, it's doing two goods. It's like, you know, lowering, you know, energy cost to whoever the customer is, but also increasing the proliferation of renewables. And then basically, uh, like for example, like Virginia said that they're going a hundred percent renewable energy that was, you know, during COVID as a way of stimulating, like the economy in Virginia, because that'll create a lot of, uh, infrastructure being built.

Benoy Thanjan (33:35):

And that's a great way to, to rebound the economy. And, and I'm sure you're familiar, like Virginia has a huge amount of data centers. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. And basically the, the, you know, Microsoft Facebook and Amazon are requiring a hundred percent renewables and then the data centers are, you know, basically incentivizing the development of these utility scale solar projects where there's a, a corporate PPA. The other thing too, which I find interesting on the real estate side, we're seeing the owners of commercial industrial real estate. I know this is relatively only a few months, but they're on the commercial industrial side wanting to include the cost of the electricity as part of the rent, which I've been saying for a very long time. And then there's like a margin that they can make off the, like say having a solar project there. And obviously there are other ways like there, you know, through, through, you know, third party aggregators or brokers or procurement manager where they can make a margin from that.

Benoy Thanjan (34:34):

So they're finding ways that they can, uh, be more efficient with their, with energy efficiency, but then also incorporating it within their lease energy efficiency to cut cost, but then as well, to make more margin off their tenants. And, and as from a marketing perspective to say renewable, and then in the industry lease solar, we're seeing like in the development side, it's hard to find great like land sites for solar, because it's starting to get a little saturated. So we're seeing, uh, a, you know, really going to brown fills and landfills land that can't really be used today, uh, for other uses to potentially go solar as well. Float of OTX where you could put it on water, like different solar systems as well, even dual use, uh, on farmland, solar and, and farming. So like, it's, it's been interesting to see like a lot has been happening the past six months and kind of seeing like these new business models, as you say are emerging and even how, how do you message customers and in a, in a virtual world. So we're seeing a lot of people adjusting. Wow.

Will Szamosszegi (35:45):

That is fascinating. That is really, really interesting. I had no idea that all of that was happening.

Benoy Thanjan (35:52):

Yeah. It's, it's amazing. I mean, you know, I can't believe that's only been a few past few months and, and there's just, everyone's trying to innovate. And I think the people that are innovating and continuing to work hard during this will come up with creative solutions to, to, to keep being successful.

Will Szamosszegi (36:09):

So, yeah. What do you think are some of those, the, the biggest challenges that solar energy companies are facing today? Um, just, I know that, that you touched on one of them, that's almost becoming saturated to a certain degree. So they're coming up with innovative ways to, to, to expand their operations and, and place more panels. But are there any other types of major, uh, challenges that these companies today are facing?

Benoy Thanjan (36:39):

I think the major challenges is really getting to the customer. When you talk to a residential customer, you're used to meeting them in person and same thing when you're talking to landowners to use their land for solar and building owners. So, you know, companies are coming up with creative ways to be able to, uh, communicate with CU customers and get new business and educating 'em because a lot of it is like an education process for a customer. Who's not familiar with solar. And I would say, I mean, there's always like a lot of competition within the solar industry and what ends up happening is like certain markets are hot because of certain incentives and then everyone then kind of moves to, to the next date. Uh, and it's just, you know, really kind of staying on the forefront of like, what's the different legislation. Like I was talking about, like this legislation on dual use with farmland and solar, or, uh, you know, float of OTAs. Like it's always like pushing to the next, what's the next sort of innovation that's happening with the, within the industry. Like everyone in the industry is trying to figure out energy storage and then combining solar plus storage. And we're waiting for states to come out with legislation on how they're gonna incentivize that. And then, you know, once that gets kind of accepted, you're gonna see a lot of development within, within energy storage. There hasn't been that big of a proliferation within the us. So I don't know if that answers your, your question.

Will Szamosszegi (38:07):

Yeah. Yeah, it does. It, it almost seems like these incentive programs are almost driving where the resources of these different companies are going when they're focusing on innovation. So it sounds like they're looking for these different incentives once they, they find that incentive, they, they go and build it and then they go and find the next, uh, opportunity where they could potentially get additional dollars to innovate. Is, am I hearing that correctly?

Benoy Thanjan (38:32):

Yeah, that's correct. I mean, that's a huge part of it is the state level incentive. Um, you know, there's gonna be a time where we're at grid parody when there's no incentives needed. And I don't think that's that far away, and that'll be a huge opportunity for the industry because we'll grow now, we're dependent on government reg regulations, which changes all the time and, and it's not it's out of your control. And the other thing that I was gonna say is like, um, energy storage is so much more complicated than solar, meaning all the different cash flow streams that are related to the many different uses of the battery. So we think that once things are getting more and more complex, that'll weed out a lot of the competition as well. So we think solar is just so such an easy to us. It's such a standard thing <laugh>, um, but like the financing and all this other stuff creates a lot of complex, even the development and construction, but it's not as complicated as building a commercial industrial building, but so it's its exciting, but yes, you're correct. And, and what you're saying, well, that's a great point to mention

Will Szamosszegi (39:37):

If you were designing the legislation surrounding solar in particular, are there any existing laws that you think might be preventing growth within the industry, or are there any laws that you think should be passed that would help promote the growth of this industry within the United States?

Benoy Thanjan (39:56):

Yeah, so that's actually a great question. So there's like, so there's many different challenges happening, so what's why it it's taking longer for solar to grow in the us is that you're taking on the utility and their business model. So they're doing whatever it can, they can to make things difficult to, to not get solar. It, because it's, it's a comp it's basically competing with the service offering. Uh, they're coming with, that's not all utilities like there's, you know, utilities that are actually, uh, going outside of their area and non-regulated and developing a lot of solar energy projects. So we think that's created like a slowdown. So you really need like the states to take the initiative and say, Hey, we wanna do solar. And then basically them dictating with obviously an agreement with all the different parties, the utilities and solar companies to come up with something that's fair.

Benoy Thanjan (40:52):

Um, I talked about the investment tax credit and the whole thing about tax equity that has created so much complexity within the solar industry, because you have to structure, uh, do a lot of complicated financial structuring, like all like the partnership flip say, lease back. It used to actually be a cash grant where you would just get a straight cash grant from the treasury. I understand why they wouldn't wanna keep it a, a cash grant. But if there's, there's some, uh, people, there's some, uh, legislators in Congress talking about turning into a cash grant. And I think that would actually help grow the industry because like the tax equity just creates a lot of complexity and adds a lot of cost related to the transaction. And it would be a lot simpler, uh, for projects to get done. It's just right now, extremely complicated. So

Will Szamosszegi (41:41):

Interest are the solar companies in other countries like China dealing with a different competitive landscape than what you just laid out of how it looks in the United States.

Benoy Thanjan (41:52):

So we've looked at international opportunities and it's definitely very different in every single country. It's very, very different. Like I actually don't know how like, projects in China get developed and how they're incentivize, but I, you know, know like from talking to we, I actually work with a lot of international companies who are coming into the us and they just, you know, tell us it's just completely different. And, uh, it's a lot more complicated to, you know, based on some of the things that I spoke about as well.

Will Szamosszegi (42:25):

Yeah. Interesting. I know that you have a lot of experience, not only just running the company, that's in the solar industry, but also as a speaker, a panelist in media, what are some of the things that you try and, uh, focus on when you're going and you're speaking at these different events.

Benoy Thanjan (42:45):

Yeah. So I'm really trying to educate, you know, everyone, depending on the audience, like what of the solar industry is about. We find that, um, it's amazing over the past 10 years being in the industry, uh, how much, how many people now are understanding what the industry is about. But I think, uh, you know, it's just exciting to kind of see how much interest, first of all, like how many opportunities come along of people wanting to hear about the solar industry, but then it's really just educating, uh, the community and the, and the public in general about it. And, and the huge opportunity. I mean, we think we're, we're really in the early stages of something that's gonna be pretty popular for a very long time.

Will Szamosszegi (43:28):

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Will Szamosszegi (44:46):

So moving on to the next part of the interview is not so deep into energy or, or crypto or anything else. But, uh, question is what is your favorite book?

Benoy Thanjan (44:57):

Oh, what's my favorite book. Oh, so it's, um, actually a Dale Carnegie book, uh, how to stop worrying and start living. My dad introduced me to this book maybe when I was in high school and I had like a, a serious like knee injury, uh, from playing sports. And my, my, I was supposed to, uh, actually run track in college. And I just remember reading that book and it really kind of gave me a guideline of kind of how to live your life and how to, I think most of our life were, were just worried about, uh, what's gonna happen and not focusing on the president now. And, uh, it was just a really, for me, like, um, just seemed like it made, made a lot of comment sense and very easy sort of strategies to follow. And everyone that I've recommended the book has really enjoyed it. Even those like written the 1940s or thirties. Yeah. Still like the lifelong lessons even today.

Will Szamosszegi (45:52):

So yeah, Dale Carnegie, he, he, uh, put out some, he also wrote what, how to win friends and influence people,

Benoy Thanjan (45:58):

Influence people. Yeah. Yes. That's the other big one.

Will Szamosszegi (46:01):

Yeah. It's kind of crazy how he wrote those books that long ago. And you'd also think that the school system would incorporate some of those, at least some of those teachings into a class. I mean, you learn about all these different subjects. You learn about you, you take gym, you do all these other things in school, but they don't really have a class that's just geared towards improving mental health. I think that that's something that would be interesting to include.

Benoy Thanjan (46:28):

Yeah. I think it's huge. I mean, I think all schools should do some sort of, you know, I guess mindfulness like improve being mental health and that's, it's surprising, like, you know, after all these years, it hasn't been incorporated into, uh, you know, the school systems, which is surprising.

Will Szamosszegi (46:46):

Do you meditate or is it something where just throughout the day, you kind of will go into the present moment because it, you really seem like you have that presence about you, that you like practice meditation or have done it before.

Benoy Thanjan (46:58):

Oh, thank you. Uh, so yeah, I actually, uh, got into Headspace. It's an app. Add

Will Szamosszegi (47:03):

That app. Yeah.

Benoy Thanjan (47:04):

<laugh> so I try to do it every, every day for, um, 10 minutes a day. And it's, it's been really helping me. I used to be extremely anxious and when I first started doing it, I couldn't focus for like the first minute, two minutes, three minutes. Yeah. But over time I'm getting better and better. I mean, yes. There's days where I'm like at minute eight and I'm not focusing on, on, you know, what's but I think like meditation is a great, like part, like that's really helped me as far as like being mindful and basically staying in the moment and Headspace is, does a great job, uh, doing that. So if you know, people are interested, I try to do it first thing in the morning. Cause I think that's the easiest time to get kind of settled in. Yeah. And I became anxious from doing that.

Will Szamosszegi (47:52):

Yeah. It's crazy. Headspace also has those different categories too, where like they have one for stress relief, they have another one for creativity. They, they just have these different types of meditations, which I'm not sure how big of a difference it makes. I'm sure that all of them are extremely helpful, but I mean, I just I've found them extremely helpful for whatever I'm trying to do. It's pretty incredible what meditation can provide once someone actually gets into it. But I agree with you those first few minutes when you're trying to, when, when you're first trying to learn it, just those first three minutes, feel like you you're sitting there for an hour.

Benoy Thanjan (48:27):

<laugh> yes. That is so true. <laugh>

Will Szamosszegi (48:31):

Just like, oh my God, how is this so difficult? Like, I I'd rather be like running like a, like a 5k and just like out of breath, dime than just sitting there, which makes almost no sense.

Benoy Thanjan (48:43):

Yeah. That's pretty crazy. I think, because we're always normally occupied that just to have like dead time like that, where we're actually thinking, I think it's, it's it's um, we're not used to it. I feel like,

Will Szamosszegi (48:54):

Yeah. It also made me realize how addicted I was to just my phone, just every single cause I would always rationalize it thinking, oh, well I'm just checking a notification on LinkedIn or some other like almost like, or just checking my email, thinking that it was somewhat being productive. But then I realized that no, that's still just like giving me a quick dopamine rush and just giving me something to do. I gotta start working on my actual, um, I guess my attention span. So to say where I can just focus on something and not get distracted. That's why I put my phone on, do not disturb and vibrate. So anytime someone calls, it just goes straight to voicemail. It doesn't buzz ever. And that was just a huge game changer in terms of just making it so I can take a step away and focus on something. But also when I want to go and work on something or check my phone, it's, it's a conscious decision. It's not just me being reactive throughout the day.

Benoy Thanjan (49:45):

That's huge. I mean, I think that makes a huge difference. I mean, I'm still trying to figure it out as well, because you know, some days I'll be, you know, doing that dopa rush and then other times I'm not, it's actually interesting because I try to schedule meetings in the afternoon because I feel like I concentrate be meetings better in the morning. So I try to do like the deep work in the morning when my head's more clear and then the afternoon, you know, I'm on the phone most of the day, but obviously not in all circumstances that works. Yeah. People are always calling as well. So that's

Will Szamosszegi (50:17):

Interest. Yeah. I've actually heard about that too. You wanna know who else does that takes that same approach? He, uh, Jeff Bezos except he'll yeah, he'll do his like deep work in the morning, but he'll also, if he has like a very important meeting or needs to make sure that he's showing up and, and doing his best in some sort of business deal or negotiation or something, he'll put those in the morning because like throughout the day, I guess you just kind of lose that, that not even that motivation, but just like that presence almost by the end of the day.

Benoy Thanjan (50:47):

Yeah, definitely. And especially like after lunch too, and right after lunch. So me into a little bit of a

Will Szamosszegi (50:53):

You're full and

Benoy Thanjan (50:54):

Yeah,

Will Szamosszegi (50:54):

<laugh> just wanna lie down and

Benoy Thanjan (50:56):

Take a quick, just wanna nap. Yeah. But that's, that's interesting. I didn't know Jeff Bezos, uh, does that, you know, so that that's, that's pretty cool to hear.

Will Szamosszegi (51:05):

Yeah, well, it, it was really interesting cuz I was listening to one of his, uh, one of his interviews and he was talking about, well obviously in the early days when you're in that start of phase and you're doing every little thing involving all parts of the company, you have, you're, you're just putting in as much time as you can. But by the ver once Amazon started to scale and he realized that they had a bunch of people at the company working on these different things, he realized that his role transformed to just making a, a very small number of good decisions. So it wasn't about scaling out his time. But just in those few key decisions that would make the difference in Amazon's growth, making sure that he was present and made the right decisions in those particular scenarios. And so now he doesn't work those long hours. He, he gets a lot more rest and he's just trying to show up and do the best in those particular cases.

Benoy Thanjan (51:55):

Oh, that, that is really interesting. I didn't know about that. That actually sounds very familiar like mark Zuckerberg as well. He's only at the office from nine to five, you know, now that there is an established company and he is really focused on the strategic aspects of it. So that's, that's pretty interesting.

Will Szamosszegi (52:11):

Yeah,

Benoy Thanjan (52:11):

Because that's the opposite of what you hear when you're an entrepreneur. <laugh> it's

Will Szamosszegi (52:15):

The entrepreneur life is complete 180. You're not doing 40 hour weeks.

Benoy Thanjan (52:19):

<laugh> yeah.

Will Szamosszegi (52:21):

That is a myth

Benoy Thanjan (52:23):

That is definitely, definitely is a myth to be, be successful. You have to put in a lot of work, especially. Um, so

Will Szamosszegi (52:29):

Yeah, you gotta get the, get, gotta get the engine created so it can start turning and then, and then you kind of get to that point where you got a lot of people and you can make those key decisions.

Benoy Thanjan (52:38):

Yeah, definitely. That's so true.

Will Szamosszegi (52:40):

Yeah. So I'm gonna ask one last question before, um, I'm gonna have you share where everyone can connect with you online. Sure. Um, I, I actually want to go back to that book that you said was your favorite book of all time and just ask you if there was one piece of advice or one core lesson that was the most valuable that you took away from that book, what would that lesson be?

Benoy Thanjan (53:03):

Yeah, so, um, they, I don't know if you've heard of the, it, they mentioned the serenity prayer. I don't know if you've heard of it, but it says basically God's grant me the serenity to know what I could change and the serenity to know the difference. So that's like, to me, it's like such a huge thing because if you think about it, a lot of things that we worry about are stressed out in life. A lot of, of times we can't control it, actually most things in our life we can't control, but we really should focus on the things that we can control and put all our effort towards that. And that will actually make a huge difference versus worrying about things that we can control. And, you know, so I thought that for me was like a, just like mind blowing thing from the book that's actually, you know, he didn't create that itself, it's in the Bible. So, um, but still, it was really instrumental to me. I mean, I, I still am, you know, fi I still have to go back to that prayer every once in a while when I, you know, am stressing about something. So

Will Szamosszegi (54:01):

Definitely well that, that is very deep and that is very actionable. Something that I will definitely start thinking more about and trying to do myself. Uh, thanks again for coming on to the podcast. This was a lot of fun and unbelievably intelligent guy, and I'm really, really happy that you took the time to come on for everyone listening. Uh, where can they connect with you or the company online?

Benoy Thanjan (54:24):

Yeah, definitely. Well, thank you will for being, having me on the podcast, this has been amazing interview and, you know yeah. You asked great questions and had had great follow ups too, and I've been on many interviews. So thank you for having me on your podcast, how you could find us, uh, it's renew energy. Are you any you energy.com and then, uh, the email is, uh, info. I NFO renew energy.com. You could also find me on LinkedIn and it's Benino and look forward to hearing from everyone.

Will Szamosszegi (54:56):

Great. Thanks again.

Benoy Thanjan (54:57):

Thank you.

Will Szamosszegi (54:59):

Thank you for listening to this episode of the SAS mining podcast. Be sure to follow us on social media and YouTube for the latest updates and previews of upcoming episodes, full episodes and transcripts can be found on SA mining.com every Thursday. If you want to hear us interview a particular guest on a future episode, please reach out to us@podcastatsamining.com.

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