Torus wants to decarbonize our homes
“If you and I went back 100 years, pre-industrial revolution, you’d see how everyone was living off the land around them,” says Nate Walkingshaw, co-founder of Torus. “For some reason, we took a walk off the deep end and over-industrialized.”
Today, resources—especially power and energy—are spread across cities and counties. Walkingshaw faced that problem head-on with his family farm.
“I couldn’t find a regenerative battery that could support our conifer trees,” he says. When he ran out of existing options, he decided he could build his own.
Two years later, Walkingshaw did leave with a better battery—and Torus, a company with what he says is an oft-searched answer to the climate change crisis.
“It’s de-carbonization,” he says. “That’s the solution.”
Of course, Walkingshaw says he’s not the first to identify mass decarbonization as a way out of the climate crisis. Where his first-mover advantage kicks in, however, is his approach to getting there.
“As I started pulling at these threads during my research, I thought, ‘How have we not solved this?’” Walkingshaw says. “I found that the complexity of the problem has been playing against finding the right solution. There are lots of energy storage manufacturers just making hardware, then you have carbon credit companies who build beautiful software. But they’re all missing a part. We needed a unified user experience.”
Walkingshaw says the energy problem has three prongs: the generation of renewable energy, its effective storage and the longevity of the two.
That’s where the Torus Station comes in—a renewable power generator that can capture power from solar, wind or hydro sources, store that power and help you track and manage its usage.
“The product is only mined once, has a 30-year service life, and it’s 95 percent recyclable when it finally does need to be retired,” Walkingshaw says. “So not only is it solving the problem, but you get these systemic benefits, too.”
It’s all thanks to a flywheel energy storage device developed and connected to an energy storage inverter by Walkingshaw and his team. That hardware is first installed in your front yard before it’s linked to software that supports the Torus phone app.
“[Our solution] is hardware and software, and it’s direct-to-consumer,” Walkingshaw says. “We took a kit of parts and decided to integrate it, engineering the last mile, the inverter, to finally fully integrate the pieces.”
Involving the consumer directly through the app is one of Torus’ hallmarks.
“A lot of products in the space like to say, ‘We can change your behavior,’” he says. “But that’s a really hard thing to do. Instead of trying to force your hand, we put an emphasis on education. We want you to know where your power is coming from, how it’s stored, and how you’re using it. Once you have a real understanding, it’s over. You’ll naturally start being more conscious, and that eventually leads to total decarbonization.”
When he realized that connecting the dots among those three solutions would lead to something like Torus, Walkingshaw says he was moved to tears.
“With those three issues, I thought I was in heaven,” he says.
Walkingshaw started his career as an EMT, using his knowledge of the medical field to launch a medical device company. From there, he hopped from launch to launch, starting and growing companies in the hardware, software and direct-to-consumer spaces.
On all sides of Torus’ development, Walkingshaw recruited the best and brightest from his previous companies, creating what’s basically “The Avengers” of energy storage.
“We’re a very mature team. Everyone has 20-plus years of experience in their functional domain,” he says. “We’ve been able to avoid a lot of the pitfalls that you’d make as an early-stage startup with first-time founders.”
For Walkingshaw, that’s even more of a sign that Torus is where he’s meant to be.
“Torus is a culmination of my life’s work,” he says. “I think it’s all led up to this.”
But it’s about more than just his career. Walkingshaw has four sons, all under the age of 20. They make the issue of climate acutely personal for him.
"Instead of trying to force your hand, we put an emphasis on education. We want you to know where your power is coming from, how it’s stored, and how you’re using it. Once you have a real understanding, it’s over. You’ll naturally start being more conscious, and that eventually leads to total decarbonization.”
“I think a lot about what their future looks like,” Walkingshaw says. “It’s a very present issue for me. I want to leave the planet better than what [my generation] did to it. I want them to live in a world that doesn’t feel like it’s being threatened all the time.”
Since its launch, consumers have been quick to sign up. Today, Torus has 26 active installations in homes across Utah—a number that Walkingshaw says is much, much smaller than his wait list.
“It’s not a sales problem,” he says. “The demand is here—there’s no concern about that.”
Instead, he says it’s the company’s focus on delivering the highest-quality product that’s slowing down rollout.
“What we’re building is very complex,” he says. “Our flywheels are spinning faster than 500 miles per hour, and the speed of sound is just over 700. We’re dealing with some serious stuff here. As we grow, we also want to make sure that our customers are happy with the stability of the product and that it’s continuing to benefit them years past installation.”
Monitoring the use of Torus’ products is one of the reasons it’s operating only in Utah, using its resources to build up rather than build out.
“Historically, where other hardware manufacturers have fallen flat is in their service,” Walkingshaw says.
In contrast, Torus has its own installation crew within the company that will set up the product for you, along with an onboarding team of electron architects that guide customers through the first three months of use.
“From the customer’s discovery to installation to first-time user experience for ongoing use, there are a lot of reasons that we would want to be close by,” he says. “Our proximity means that we don’t get ripped off, and our consumers don’t get ripped off, either. We didn’t want to leave anything to chance.”
So far, he says, so good.
“If we continue on trend, we anticipate 450 installations in Utah this year,” he says.
That’s just phase one. Once Torus hits its benchmark of nearly 500 homes in Utah, the company plans to expand into new states across the U.S.
“Utah has low energy costs and still has an amazing return on investment,” he says. “But if you go to any other state, especially California and Texas, wow…the payback is amazing.”
It’s not just consumers that have championed Torus’ cause. Walkingshaw says government leaders have been quick to offer their support, too.
“Gov. Spencer Cox has been in our camp from day one,” he says. After Torus’ launch, the Republican-led Climate Action Committee reached out to Torus to serve as a keynote speaker at one of their events.
“I was shocked,” Walkingshaw says. “But we’ve seen from Democrats to Republicans to people who are actively climate conscious to those who are concerned—it’s all been tailwinds.”
It’s those increasing levels of public concern that Walkingshaw credits for really launching Torus initially.
“A decade ago, the climate technology we’re using now wasn’t here,” he says. “But even if it was, our same story back then would have us laughed out of the room. You know, ‘What are you talking about, daily decarbonization? Climate change is a myth,’ things like that. But today, people know. They can see what’s going on with their own eyes, and they want to do something about it. We have people’s attention.”
But working in a high-profile industry also means that more and more companies are starting to encroach on Torus’ space. That, Walkingshaw says, is actually welcomed.
“I don’t worry about the competitive landscape issue,” he says. “We were happy to get the ball rolling, but if we move at the same pace we’re at now—or even faster than we’re at now—it will still not even make a dent. We need everyone, all hands on deck, using technology like this. If you’re entering the market, honestly, I ask that you are using the same kind of products, that you’re building a sustainable solution aimed at daily decarbonization.”
Walkingshaw’s hope is that products like Torus can shift our mindset from depending on the grid to viewing it as a last-resort option.
“I think solar and other forms of energy are categorized as emergency backups,” he says. “With the homes we’ve already installed, we’ve seen we can switch the public’s opinion of the two. The vast majority of the time, those homes are running completely independently of the grid. The grid is the backup—and on top of that, they’re saving money on their energy bills. It’s really, really cool to watch.”