Making it Work

Green energy firm pivots swiftly to pursue EV charging opportunity

Young renewables start-up plans to provide electric car charging stations in rural locations near wind and solar farms

Barry Sherry, co-founder and chief executive, ACEL Energy. With their new EV charging stations, the company plans to develop a broad off-grid network. Picture: Joe Dunne

Irish renewable energy start-up Acel Energy plans to expand into the EV charging-station market, only a year after its initial launch.

The start-up was founded in 2022 and is based in Monaghan town.

It sells solar panels, battery storage and energy management systems, developed by third parties and connected by its own management software solution, to businesses.

“I have worked 20 years in the energy sector, ten of those in renewable energy, and this just created a passion for this topic,” said Sherry.

Company: Acel Energy

Founded by: Barry Sherry and Declan McDonald in June 2022

Staff: 15

Turnover: €2.6 million

“Declan McDonald has a similar background and both of us wanted to start our own project, so we thought that the two of us could work very well together on this.”

Acel Energy also offers customers a range of funding options for their renewables projects outside of the traditional self-funded model, whereby clients fund the project out of their own resources, or fully-funded schemes, which are financed through a third party and paid back through the generated energy, for example.

“In this option, the project is co-owned by the client and Acel Energy,” Sherry said.

The co-ownership model allows the client to own a renewable energy source, while Acel Energy is building and maintaining it. The company and client share the revenue of the project.

“This is especially aimed at high energy users, like factories,” Sherry said. “It allows them to save money on energy without having to fully carry the weight of the investment.”

According to Sherry, this system is already established in other European countries, but has not found its way to Ireland until now.

Enterprise Ireland

Enterprise Ireland recognised this funding option by backing Acel Energy with €150,000 in the form of 8 per cent cumulative redeemable convertible preference shares, a kind of hybrid loan-equity funding arrangement.

In an initial private equity funding round, Sherry, the former head of energy solutions at Kingspan and McDonald, the previous owner of renewable energy company Eco Systems, were able to raise enough funding to launch Acel Energy.

‘People are still reluctant to buy an EV because of the charging infrastructure’

With Sherry’s background in engineering, the company developed the services they provide and managed to grow to a staff of 15 and a first-year turnover of €2.6 million.

With their new EV charging stations, the company plans to develop a broad off-grid network based on renewable energy that will not be limited to cities, as much of the country’s existing green infrastructure is, but that will also reach into Ireland’s less populated areas.

“People are still reluctant to buy an EV because of the charging infrastructure,” he said.

Charging stations

Sherry’s vision is for rural charging stations to be set up close to renewable energy sources such as wind or solar farms, with the battery acting as a buffer to bridge lack of wind or sun.

Under those plans, a connection to an outside grid is not necessary as wind or solar energy can be sourced close to the newly installed charging station. The different elements of the rural charging system would be connected by Acel’s software solution.

“In our network, the charging station will be coupled to one of our storage batteries for a secure power supply. The battery itself is connected to a renewable energy source that is providing energy for this and multiple other charging stations,” he said.

“We are currently reaching out to other companies interested in this idea. EV charging is still lacklustre in Ireland but it can be a good business, so we are optimistic we’ll find someone to cooperate with.”

In the next year, Sherry aims to double Acel Energy’s turnover to €5.2 million. Thanks to their roots in the sector, the two founders could already engage in partnerships with organisations such as Kingspan, Teagasc or Argo Development Studio.

This Making it Work article is produced in partnership with Enterprise Ireland