Dane Birkeland and the Math Behind Our Model

At Perceptive Power Infrastructure we’re proud to have a well-rounded team. By well-rounded we mean that they understand the human aspects of the energy industry as much as the technical and operational aspects. They have very different professional backgrounds, but they share an important trait. They all come from and care about small towns and rural America. They’ve seen the challenges that rural electric cooperatives face and they want to address them.  

Dane Birkeland brings a fresh approach to Perceptive Power Infrastructure. Prior to joining the team, he’d never worked in the energy sector. However, the model that he created is one of the key elements that sets us apart from other developers. His keen interest in agriculture and rural economies plus his data analytics skills make him an invaluable member of our team.  

We sat down with Dane to find out more about his background and how he created his game-changing model.  

Dane Birkeland - Senior Analyst

Midwestern roots with a global view

One of the things that makes Perceptive Power Infrastructure great is the fact that our team comes from rural communities all over the United States. Dane provides a midwestern perspective, hailing from Minnesota. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Applied Mathematics from Carleton College. During this time, he worked as an intern at Cargill. While most of his professional experience has centered around data analytics and engineering in a variety of fields, his passion for agriculture and energy markets has grown over the years.  

In 2022, Dane enrolled in a master’s program at the Wageningen University and Research (WUR) in the Netherlands. For several years running, WUR has been named the best agricultural university in the world by US News & World Report. For his MSc in Biosystems Engineering, he’s writing a thesis on energy markets which he hopes to publish after completion of the program. This specialized knowledge of agriculture and energy makes him especially valuable when working with our clients in farming communities. 

As much as he’s interested in the science and math of helping us create solutions, he’s interested in the people from these communities. This is part of the reason he left his previous sector, logistics, and came to work with us.  

Were there any similarities between your work in logistics and energy?

I worked as lead data modeler for a management consulting firm specialized in air-freight logistics. In some ways they are similar. You’ll have the same mathematical principles, but with different word problems, so to speak. However, the scale is much larger there. In logistics, you might have 5,000 trucks and any modeling you have for that is going to be in Python. It’s nothing you can easily share, The differences don’t stop there though. [The energy industry] is much more tangible and grounded. We’re addressing real people’s day-to-day problems. Energy impacts everyone. That’s what I like about working in this industry.

This is an important part of our approach. Our Perceptive Way Process centers on getting to know our clients as people first. We want to learn about the communities they represent and their goals before we gather data or create solutions. Once we understand who they are and where they come from, then we use our model. 

How did you learn about the energy industry to create such a comprehensive model?

“For pretty much all of 2022, I worked with Scott Tampke, our co-founder, and Gary Hurse, our Head of Origination. They taught me everything I needed to know about the industry. Together, we built out different iterations of the model until we created the one we’re using now,” said Dane.   

The model which Perceptive Power Infrastructure uses is unique. No one else in the industry approaches distributed generation solutions like this. Scott Tampke weighed in on the importance of this. “The proprietary model that Dane created is something special.  In cases where we design distributed generation solutions, we can help [our clients] get 15-20% reduction cost on their electric spending. Just by taking data from their energy bill and yearly usage, we can save them a lot of money. This is why we run the model.”  

What makes the Perceptive Power Infrastructure model special?

The model uses surprisingly little client data in order to produce solutions. Our project team compiles the necessary regulatory and market information while Dane compiles facts and figures from the clients. What specific data does he need?  

  • 8760 data  
  • Load data  
  • Energy and power invoices 

With those simple variables, we’re able to propose the right distributed energy resources. Beyond that, we’re also able to identify the ways in which they should be run to create the most cost savings.  

The model is also unique in its transparency. According to Dane, “At PPI we open up our model to the clients. Every assumption that we make is right in front of them. We do this to build trust, but we also truly want them to find a place where an assumption is wrong because their specific case is different.”   

Financial model for distributed generation energy solutions

Has that happened?

Dane chuckled, “Yes, that actually has. To be clear, we’re not trying to make mistakes. We want to identify conceptual changes that can reveal new avenues for addressing client problems.  We had a scenario where the client’s load was higher than what was showing due to an inefficiency. This could lead to another solution for them down the road. This allows us all to learn more.”  

Making a positive impact on the energy industry

Team members like Dane Birkeland are committed to making the energy industry better. Using Dane’s model we can create distributed generation solutions that aren’t just tailor made, they’re transparent. Electric cooperatives and C&Is will need development partners over the long-term that they can trust. America’s rural communities depend on this.  

Each specific solution will vary, depending on the client and geography. What remains consistent is that all of our projects will include some form of renewable distributed generation. For Dane, this is important. When asked if he felt that the work he does was making a positive impact, he replied, “Absolutely. We’re building renewables into every solution because it’s the best fit technically, operationally, and financially. That’s a step in the right direction, no matter what.” 

If you’d like to know more about the math behind our model, our team would love to talk with you. You can fill out our contact form and be connected to our team to help identify the right energy resources to help you meet your goals.  

Meet the Team is a series of blogs in which we introduce the great people who make up Perceptive Power Infrastructure. Each blog explores the expertise they bring to our team and how they’re working to make the industry better for rural electric cooperatives.

The Team Founded In Rural Roots