Alex Hornstein

2013 Scale-Ups Fellow

Founder, Tiny Pipes

Cellphone-enabled solar panel.

Website: Tiny Pipes

Pilot Market: Philippines

Meet Scale-Ups Fellow, Alex Hornstein
Alex Hornstein graduated in 2007 from MIT with a degree in electrical engineering and computer science. Since graduating he has focused on clean technology and is currently living in China.

The Issue
400 million people, or ~100 million households (about 1/3 of the world's off-grid population) are near-grid, have cellular connectivity at their homes, and have started to incorporate electricity into their lives could benefit from uniquely appropriate energy solutions.

The Solution
Tiny Pipes operates as an off-grid electrical utility by installing solar panels on houses and selling the energy that the panels generate. tinyPipes designed their own smart solar panels that they can meter and control over a cellular network. The panels have built-in battery charging circuitry so they can be connected directly to a user’s existing 12V car battery and charge the battery from the panel. Users pre-pay for energy by texting in a payment via mobile money, or by paying in cash at a local store. 

Over the next year, tinyPipes intends to reach 1,000 installations in the Philippines, to verify with real-world data that they are providing adequate power to users, and to prove that users are finding uses for the energy they provide. 

Tiny Pipes also will develop a data-driven methodology for identifying new customers and a technical system that can handle the uncertainty of charging batteries with different ages and health.