Interviews - May 1, 2023

May's Expert of the Month: Sudhir Pai!

Written by Olivia Mahaux 5 min read

The Solar Impulse Foundation relies on its Expert Community to evaluate Solutions seeking the Efficient Solution Label and promote the adoption of clean and profitable technologies. Comprising professionals from over 50 countries with diverse backgrounds in science, engineering, and consulting, the Expert Community is an essential network that helps drive the global transition towards sustainable solutions. Each month, the Foundation recognizes an exemplary member of the community for their outstanding contributions. We are thrilled to announce that Sudhir Pai has been named the Expert of the Month for May. 

May's Expert of the Month: Sudhir Pai!

Since joining Solar Impulse’s Expert Community in 2018, Sudhir has evaluated 37 Solutions, making him one of our longest-serving and most dedicated Experts. We are delighted to honor Sudhir for his steadfast commitment and contributions to the Solar Impulse Foundation.

In this article, we learn about Sudhir's experiences and expertise.

Could you briefly introduce yourself and provide us with some background information about yourself and what educational and professional experiences have shaped your career in clean technology?

I was born close to the Portuguese colony of Goa and raised in Bombay. I did my schooling at Hansraj Morarji Public School, where I was the Junior School Athletics Champion. After that, I graduated with an Electrical Engineering Degree from the University of Bombay, where I represented the college at the University Students Council.

My career began at Schlumberger, where I held various management, technology, and business leadership positions, including VP & GM of Completions business, GM of Schlumberger operations Mumbai India, and most recently MD at Liquid Robotics Oil and Gas (LROG), a Schlumberger joint venture start-up. In my time at Schlumberger, I worked in 9 countries, including the Middle East, India, UK, and USA, with a focus on client relations, business & technology, service quality, and personnel development.

In 2021, I followed my passion for Commercial Aerospace and spent a year at Axiom Space as Head of Robotics, Automation, and Sustainability, leading a team to build the world's first fully commercial Space Station. Since February 2022, I have been the Executive Vice President of the Data and Robotics Division at Acteon Group, a KKR Portfolio company based out of Houston, Texas. I am currently pursuing a Masters in Space Operations from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Florida, USA, and am also an alumnus of the International Space University, Strasbourg France.

What excited me about clean technology was my last assignment at Schlumberger, where I served as Managing Director of a highly successful joint venture startup LROG between Schlumberger and a California-based company called Liquid Robotics. Together, we developed a flagship autonomous surface vehicle, The Wave Glider, which utilized wave power for propulsion and solar energy to power instrumentation and sensors.

What motivated you to focus on sustainability and robotics in the energy and aerospace industries, and how do you see these fields evolving in the coming years?

There is so much similarity between the challenges in aerospace at the heights of LEO & GEO versus what we see at the depths of the sea and subsea infrastructures. In both cases, it is important to get it right because the cost of failure for humans and assets is unacceptable. You must get it right on the first try. That motivated me to focus on sustainability and robotics. 

The upcoming years look very exciting for the fields of sustainability and robotics which are expected to undergo significant advancements. For example:

  • Advancements in machine learning and AI technologies will enable the creation of more sophisticated robots capable of carrying out complex tasks.

  • Extensive use of robotics and automation in areas where humans and robots can safely and efficiently coexist with a clear commitment to upholding Issac Asimov's Laws of Robotics and prioritizing human safety.

  • Removal of humans from hazardous operations through the use of remote operations centers (ROCs), allowing technology to take over dangerous tasks.

How do you see the integration of cleantech solutions/alternatives into existing infrastructure and systems, and what steps is Acteon taking to support this integration?

At Acteon, we believe that integrating cleantech solutions into existing infrastructure and systems is essential to reducing carbon emissions and achieving a more sustainable future. We are taking several steps to support this integration, such as providing a suite of smart solutions for the entire lifecycle of an asset, including advanced geotechnical and geophysical site investigation, surveying, subsea electronics and robotics, and asset integrity monitoring. From satellite data acquisition to autonomous vehicles, we provide our customers with leading-edge, lower-carbon technologies to enable them to make decisions faster and smarter. We achieve this by utilizing cloud-based computing, remote connectivity, superior data interpretation, high-resolution imaging, advanced robotics, and automation.

Can you discuss any exciting projects or initiatives that you have worked on (or are currently working on) at Acteon?

We are embarking on some very exciting projects. They are focused on the effective use of digital technology coupled with sustainability. Our key focus areas are offshore wind sites in the North East United States, Scotland, Europe, Middle East, Brazil and Asia Pacific regions. Transfer lessons learned using Digital Twins technology and use the innovative data security platforms to provide a total Digital Experience.

The start of a recent project is Bellrock and Broadshore in response to last year’s ScotWind licensing round. Once operational, they will have respective capacities of 1,200 MW and 900 MW. “Our early involvement will provide detailed engineering and data interpretation services to help all project participants understand the seafloor composition and structure. The integration of these studies under a single contract minimizes interfaces.”

What motivated you to become part of the Solar Impulse Foundation's Expert Community in 2018? Also, could you highlight any particular Solutions you evaluated that you found particularly interesting, and explain what makes them noteworthy to you?

What motivated me to be part of the Solar Impulse Foundation's Expert Community in 2018 was an alignment of values between the Foundation, the then organisation I was working for and my own personal values. I feel extremely fortunate to have worked in three distinct industries (energy, commercial aerospace and marine renewables) with incredible talent from three of the finest organisations (Schlumberger, Axiom Space and Acteon Group) with a common focus on long term sustainability. “Efficient solutions for a clean economic growth to address sustainability challenges while enabling economic growth

During these 5 years, I had the opportunity to evaluate 37 Solutions. In general, it would be difficult to decide which was interesting to evaluate, it is like asking which is your favourite child. Having said that two Solutions I enjoyed evaluating are:

  • Eco-friendly pool by Waterair®:  A very practical solution directly affecting human lifestyle leveraging solar energy for zero operating electricity consumption. 

  • Solfium: the adoption and life-cycle management of solar energy for the customer.

In both cases, the Innovators demonstrated a very unique technology that could be taken from the lab to the market with a clear business roadmap.

How do you see the clean technology landscape evolving in the coming years, and what role do you think organizations like the Solar Impulse Foundation will play in this evolution?

According to the United Nations, the world's population reached 8 billion on November 15, 2022. It is projected to reach 9 billion by 2037, 9.7 billion by 2050, and 10.4 billion by the end of this century. This poses a critical question: where will the energy to support this growth come from?

To meet the growing demand for energy, we must explore additional energy sources beyond fossil fuels. Clean energy technologies, such as wind and solar power, will play a prominent role. Solar energy, in particular, has the advantage of consistent availability across major parts of the world at predictable times. This is where organizations like the Solar Impulse Foundation can play a crucial role in driving the implementation of these technologies to support a sustainable future for all.

Anything else you would like to add or share? 

These are exciting times. The world has some smart talent and I feel fortunate to be in the midst of it and part of the solution. I have a special passion for Commercial Aerospace and Formula 1 racing and to challenge ourselves to use the powers of nature and clean technology to achieve results excites me. It is a journey and it's all about making a difference. That excites me!

Written by Olivia Mahaux on May 1, 2023

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