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A strong engineering effort to better harness the energy of the sun. To improve the living standards of rural populations around the world. There is a solution, and it’s all around us!

The Idea

Residential Solar installations are growing at an exponential rate in response to ever decreasing renewable energy and rising environmental concerns.  This has created a growing market/demand for high performance PV systems.  Currently, the market is tunnel visioned on solely improving the efficiency of solar panels and reducing production costs.  However, this has the drawback of leaving out customers who are limited by roof area. SunCatcher’s innovative solar tracking mechanism aims to improve solar panel performance from a completely new angle that is not be limited by roof space.  The innovative solution to this problem will be an amalgamation of physics, material science, and solar engineering with a detailed study of the solar trajectory.

The Market

Customer 01, Environmentally Conscious Home Owner

(may already be using rooftop solar PV or considering installing a module)

This customer is a city dwelling resident who has a strong urge to be as environmentally friendly as possible.  They want to reduce their carbon foot-print as much as possible. However, they are also economically conscientious and are conflicted over the higher costs of a green lifestyle.

The Pains:

-Regretting his continuous contribution towards global warming due to the ongoing consumption of the coal generated grid electricity.

-Difficulty in making noticeable reductions in power consumption without compromising lifestyle.

-Constantly wondering if the carbon emissions that he reduces by installing solar panels is outweighed by the carbon emissions caused during the manufacturing process of solar panels.

-May be limited by available space for new panels to further reduce energy carbon footprint

The Gains:

-The customer will be able to further reduce the reliance on grid power which comes with cost savings.  This can be achieved with a reduced number of panels with the introduction of solar tracking.

-The customer does not have to worry about reducing the power consumption as he is using solar power instead of coal powered grid electricity.

-The customer can increase the power generated by a single solar panel there by reducing the carbon total foot-print.

-Increasing savings over time due to expected continual rise in energy prices

 

Customer 02, Farmer

This customer is from a rural area.  He intends to find a cheap and lasting solution to his power requirements so that he will be able to maximize his profits.

The Pains:

-Grid connection to a rural location is very expensive and unreliable

-On top of the initial cost for a grid connection there is an ongoing cost as well

-Installing more panels would result in larger maintenance costs and balance of system costs such as transmission wires. This would also increase complexity of the overall power system.

 

The Gains:

-Minimal increase in maintenance costs.

-Due to the availability of land area there is no issue integrating a single axis solar tracking system which will increase the power gain.

 

Customer 03, Solar Installation Company

This is customer is a company that is trying to keep up with the highly competitive renewable market.

The Pains:

-The inability to provide any new services to their customers to give themselves a competitive advantage.

-Failed ability to create a new market for product that does not yet exist.

The Gains:

-Due to the attempts of the current market to increase the efficiency of the existing fixed angle PV systems our product will allow the Solar Installation company to create a new market with our innovative and affordable single axis solar tracking mechanism.

-Be perceived as innovative, marketing edge over competitors, increased revenue and exposure.

 

The Competition

There are 3 main competitors that were identified by our team.

Competitor 01 – Standard Grid Connected Power

For our product to be viable, the bottom line is that is has to be cheaper than the readily available grid power, at least in the near future payback. The grid connection provides a reliable and unlimited connection to power at an  affordable price. However, this is only for metropolitan residents such as customer 01. Also, network costs and cents/kwh continue to rise so although they provide a good service for urban customers, it is becoming increasingly expensive. Our solution provides a further boost PV performance/incentives PV adoption to allow users to become more independent from the grid and saving costs in the long run. 

For rural users, our solution also increases their independence from the grid which is of even more importance due to the even higher connection costs and unreliability.

 

Competitor 02 – Adding extra Solar Panels

Adding additional solar panels is a direct competitor to our innovation as this is also the current norm for increasing solar output due to the competitive prices of solar panels. However, it is not viable for people limited by roof area. This is where our innovative single axis solar tracking mechanism with SunCatcher demonstrates the competitive edge as it allows an additional output increase of at least 20% without requiring any more roof space.  We also aim to reduce the cost to below 20% of a new panel which will make Suncatcher more cost effective than new panels. 

 

Competitor 03 – Existing solar tracking systems

The cast majority of current systems require complex mechatronic systems that are not only expensive, but difficult to repair which is an issue for rural users. Our solutions address both these issues by providing a cheaper and simpler solution for solar tracking by minimising the amount of moving parts through an innovative approach.

The Vision

There are over 1.3million homes with rooftop solar in Australia and with continuously falling prices, solar uptake will continue to grow. Re-Direct will need to reach solar installers and solar panel manufacturers to capitalise on this space.  One of us works with a solar installer so this is a definite possibility and once we have sufficient customer validation and results from initial installations, we will reach out to solar panel manufacturers.

We intend to implement on existing solar systems in Australian and then reach out to rural areas who are isolated from the grid for a meaningful social impact.

In addition to be able to improve performance of existing solar systems, our system has potential to also increase the performance of the any other solar energy related devices such as solar hot water systems.

Mentor Pitch

Redirect is a low cost solar tracking device that can be retrofitted onto exisiting or planned rooftop solar systems. Instead of moving the panel to track the sun, reflective extensions are used to redirect solar rays onto the panel to boost performance. Our solution has potential to increase solar panel output by at least 15%.

The target market is brand new as there are no competitors doing anything like this. Current solar installers only offer installing more panels as a means to boost performance and solar tracking is not even an option for residential users. Our solution overcomes the fixed panel limitation for customers who  want more from their solar panels as well as the issue of limited roofspace (so more panels is not an option).

Looking for a mentor that will be able to help with the technical aspects of the projects and a mentor that will be able to help enlighten us with regards to the market and how it operates.

The Customer Experience

At the beginning of our business venture we will interact with Canberra Locals with a face-to-face meet up and ask if they will be willing to try our system to get a boost in power generation.  We will then use these installations to further promote our product among residents within Canberra.  But this will not be how we will be interacting with the customers after we have acquired test results from our first few installations.

The main groups of customers we will interact with are Solar Panel Manufacturers and Solar Installers.  We aim to have a great marketing team which will approach these companies to propose a joint venture to introduce solar tracking as one of their possible add-ons with their new installs.  Then we integrate our marketing team with their marketing team and continue to sell our product with them and other solar installers and vendors that would like to sell our product.

The Team

Our team comprises of 4 engineers from the Australian National University.  2 of them are final year, final semester students and the other 2 are graduate engineers.  We have studied together as hard-working students during our university degree and we know what each of us are capable of.  The engineering specializations within our team are Renewable Energy Systems and Mechatronic Systems Engineering.  This allows us to develop simulations based on our idea and test our idea through various prototype developments.  

In addition to this one of our graduate engineers works as a solar engineer with a Solar Installer that is based in Mitchell.  This should help us get in-touch with different businesses within the solar industry to help kick-start our project!

Our Partners

We would like to collaborate with any solar panel manufacturing companies, solar panel installation companies and solar panel vendors.  You would be given access to a market that doesn’t currently exist in the residential solar installation market.

We would like to invite any Sales people that would like to help market our product.  This is a major part of the next step of our project as we will be introducing a concept that is completely new to residential solar systems.  Therefore informing the residential solar users of the existence of such a system is very important.

We would also like to have a accountant to go through our warranty clauses, allowed trial periods and how it would affect the funds and the growth of the company.  Help from Tailored Accounts would be amazing to help us get started with our project.