Interview With Greenlyte CDR Founder Flo Hildebrand

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When was Greenlyte founded?

Greenlyte was founded in September 2022 with the mission to develop a low-cost, robust Direct Air Capture technology that captures CO2 at world-leading energy rates, while supplying hydrogen as a by-product.

What was the initial inspiration for the company?

The technology of Greenlyte was developed during a 15-year research project by our co-founder Dr. Peter Behr. Peter and I met in the summer of 2022 and decided to spin out the IP from the university to start Greenlyte. We were then joined by a long-time fellow-entrepreneur friend of mine, Dr. Niklas Friederichsen.

How was creating Greenlyte motivated by your prior experience in climate & entrepreneurship?

Prior to Greenlyte, I co-founded and scaled a software company called Qualifyze. The company was a great success and we managed to build a team of over 100 people and achieved 8-digit revenues. However, over time I caught myself thinking and worrying more often about climate change than actually working on the business. Eventually, I left my role as co-CEO and began investing in climate ventures. But to be honest, I quickly learned that I am probably not the best investor, so I began scouting German universities for outstanding talent and IP. This is how I met Peter and got hooked by his technology, which made me drop everything else and focus my entire time on this.

Would you do anything differently if you were founding the company today?

It’s difficult to say right now. We have been working on Greenlyte for roughly 10 months and so far have been able to make great progress without any major hiccups. I also feel that we have the right level of risk-taking and focus in our company. For both Niklas and myself, this has not been the first venture. Some things are a little bit easier when you have experienced them before. I could give a long list of things I would have done differently in my first venture.

What is Greenlyte?

Greenlyte Carbon Technologies (GCT) is building novel, modular direct air capture plants that rely completely on renewable electrical energies to capture CO2 from ambient air while producing hydrogen. The final products of our technology are clean CO2, H2, and O2 in a gaseous form which can be used in either carbon storage or carbon utilization cases.

How does Greenlyte work?

GCT’s proprietary technology consists of a 3-step process. At first, we absorb CO2 in a liquid solution through an exothermic reaction. Subsequently, the CO2 precipitates from the solution in the form of a solid salt. Steps 1 and 2 require only a fractional amount of energy, which means they can be run day and night. Once we have renewable power available, we switch on our modified alkaline water electrolysis in which the CO2 is desorbed from the salt, hydrogen and oxygen are produced and the absorbent material is regenerated.

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How is Greenlyte different from other carbon tech trying to solve the same issue?

First and foremost, we are producing hydrogen in parallel with CO2 capture, which makes our solution prone to carbon utilization cases that need both CO2 and H2, like the production of sustainable aviation fuels. Secondly, we can very easily integrate with fluctuating energy supplies, as our energy-intensive desorption can be completely decoupled from the absorption. Thirdly, our low CAPEX design allows us to build relatively small units that can still hit profitability in terms of CO2 price, without having to build massive plants for various hundred million dollars.

Where do you hope Greenlyte is in 3 years and in 5 years?

We hope to reach kilo-ton scale in various commercial setups in the next 3 years, as well as have achieved a replicable, modular plant design that can be produced and shipped globally to achieve scale. In 5 years, we want to be very close to a CO2 price of around 150€s per ton.

Who are your most important partners now, and going forward?

At the moment we are executing against a relatively clear roadmap, so it’s more about having the right focus, and in case of issues, having partners around us that can cut problem solving time. These are mostly our early supporters, including our investors and our current and future talent, but also local supporters that help us get to grips with a wide range of issues faster. Once our technology is mature enough and we switch our focus to scaling, than we need to have the right network along our supply chain, on the customer side as well as regulator side.

If you weren’t the co-founder of Greenlyte, what would you aspire to do personally? 

When I left my previous venture, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to do next, so Greenlyte is exactly what I wanted to do. If I wasn’t doing this, then most likely I would be engaging somewhere as a venture builder to help other founders build climate tech ventures.

What are the most overlooked opportunities in cleantech and climate, in your opinion?

I’d argue that it’s mostly the existing solutions that are already here today and the choices we can already make. It’s not rocket science to live a more climate-friendly life by consuming less meat, flying less, picking public transport more often, and very importantly, electing green parties.

If you could enact some climate policy, what would it be?

For me, this would be a globally aligned CO2 price with a clear price increase roadmap that makes people make green business decisions today (e.g. replacing an existing production facility due for replacement with a green one instead of going for another grey solution). It has to be very simple to calculate the business case of any green business decision made today. 

What motivates you to continue in this work?

The majority of my motivation comes from the big thing that we are working on, which is contributing toward halting climate change. This is what motivates not just me, but also our team, stakeholders, and supporters. Especially on the team side, I can see what this does to everyone. That’s why my second biggest source of energy is our team and the massive contributions I see everyday. It is a true blessing to be working with such great people on such a great cause. I am lucky to have the position that I have.

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Jonny Tiernan

Jonny Tiernan is a Publisher and Editor-In-Chief based in Berlin. A regular contributor to The Beam and CleanTechnica, he primarily covers topics related to the impact of new technology on our carbon-free future, plus broader environmental issues. Jonny also publishes the Berlin cultural magazine LOLA as well as managing the creative production for Next Generation Living Magazine.

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