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!
Solar power reaches peak energy production when the average Australian home is not in use during business hours. Solar Power has an exponential drop in energy production during hours of peak demand which is after business hours. Re-Direct will address this issue by extending the period of peak energy production. Our product is a retrofittable solar add-on that redirects misaligned solar insolation back on to the solar panel. Doing so lengthens the period of peak power production into the hours of peak energy demand. For the user this provides value in the form of increased production and increased savings.
In a short period more than 20 roof-top PV users have shown support. Three of which have agreed to be our first customers to test our product on their systems. We were also able to secure a leading residential and commercial solar installer Solarhub (http://www.solarhub.net.au/) as a future partner of Re-Direct.
Re-Direct is a highly motivated team of engineers, specializing in Renewable Energy Systems and Mechatronic Systems Engineering.
Weiyue Wang is a talented final year Mechatronics Systems Engineering student who has already secured a graduate position in Reposit Power (https://www.repositpower.com/). Weiyue is primarily responsible for market analysis.
Zeb Kee is a recent graduate who specialized in Renewable Energy Systems and is now focussing on his PhD in the field of solar thermal energy storage systems. Zeb is currently heading the research and development for Re-Direct.
Daniel Shen (Co-Founder) is a final year student who also specialises in the field of Renewable Energy Systems. He is currently employed by Energy Action (http://www.energyaction.com.au/) and is very passionate about energy management and Solar Energy. Daniel is an all-rounder and has helped with Product Design, Market Research, Product costing and cost analysis.
Layan Wijesekera (Founder) is a recent graduate engineer who has specialized in both Renewable Energy Systems as well as Mechatronic Systems Engineering. He is currently working as an engineer at Solarhub and as an IT consultant at the Australian National University.
The current vision for Re-Direct is to see implementations of our solar add-on widespread across Australia. To see at-least 70-90% of residential solar users in Australia maximising their power gain using our system. There are a lot of standards that we will need to meet in order for us to begin installation and we estimate that it will take 1-2 years for the current market to learn and fully adapt to our new system. By the end of 4 years we hope to have at least 3 trial installations and gather data to prove the increase in power gain. By the end of 8 years we hope to have secured a partnership with at least 2 installers in Canberra and a structural manufacturer with at least 30 – 50 successful installs within Canberra. After 8 years we hope start testing the market in cities around Australia.
Re-Direct has currently developed a prototype which is a visual demonstration of the product. We currently have computer simulations to generate performance values of our final product. The team has the skills as well as the dimensions to create a functional prototype of the structure. In the following 3 months we hope to optimize our design to generate the best results and build a functional proto-type so that we will be able to collect real-world results based on our tests.
We plan to develop a prototype 3kW, 4kW, 5kW, and 10kW system. The cost for development for our prototype with a margin for error and improvement will add up to a total of at least AUD 9,500. The estimated cost of establishing a website to engage installers is AUD 1,000. The cost of software needed for simulation purposes which will help improve design and will more importantly help generate more accurate results to present our customer base is AUD 2,000. The total funding amount we require adds up to AUD 12,500.
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.
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.
-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 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.
-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.
-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 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.
-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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Since we are selling a product, the raw costs of production are outlined as follows: Mylar sheet 2.73 $/m2, Wooden frame 2$/m2, quality servo motorx2 $700 and supporting materials (hinges, adhesion) $10. For a typical 3kW roof system with a max area of 25m2, our cost of materials is $200. Initially, we will make the product ourselves until we begin gaining traction so for about 2 hours time for 4 members = $200. This is a total of $400 which is well below the target price of 10% of the 3kW solar installation cost ($600). This is our target because our product can provide at least 10% increase in performance so if it is cheaper than 10% of the panel cost, it is competitive.
The major costs for our venture will likely be in the marketing and demonstrations we need to do to push our product. Since for the retrofitting market we are basically on our own as exisiting installers have little incentive to help, our marketing costs will be very high. We will use the cost of acquisition for rooftop PV as a benchmark since we are attempting to sell a unique product with no established market. Based on the latest data, cost is 0.43$/W (https://www.solarreviews.com/solar-leads/customer-acquisition-costs-in-the-solar-industry-2017/) which comes out to over $1200 per customer for a typical 3kW system. Granted, the cost of installation is also high (>$6000) which is why this figure is reasonable. For us, if we provide a 10% boost (600W) then our cost is likely to be around $300 per customer since we are also new so the cost per Watt will be higher for us (0.5$/W). So initially, we will likely be just breaking even or losing money for growth and this is where the grant money will come in.
On the retrofitting side, we will try to get solar installers onboard but it is likely we will be on our own. However, we can join with installers to help expand their services by offering our product as an add-on for prospective rooftop PV homeowners. Examples in the ACT include solarhub (for which we have a direct contact), Solargain, Power saving canberra and many more. This will help us by increasing our reputation among customers and getting access to relevant customers. The value they receive is a competitive advantage over installers who don’t offer this, increased revenue as they will receive a major share of the revenue.
For manufacturing, we will try to keep it local. This will help company reputation and also increase our presence in the local community. Also, by employing locals, we are slowly educating people and there may be some word of mouth marketing. Costs will be higher than overseas but for smaller scale such as when we start, we save on shipping costs.
When the venture expands and gains more and more customers and trust, our concept will be validated enough to approach major PV panel suppliers. This may evolve into a direct partnership where we can avoid the middle man of solar installers and have panels which already have our reflectors attached coming out of factory. This will increase our revenue percentage and also provide these suppliers with an innovative edge over competitors.
Our end user and final customers are rooftop PV owners. The payment is one-off when they purchase a PV setup with our add-on. The value they obtain is more power from their system which means they save more money on electricity per year. For a 3kW system producing 11.5kwH in canberra means that the user saves about $3 per day (30cents per kwh) and so about $1200 a year. With our add-on, they save an extra at least 10% which is $120 per year. This increases their return on their investment and our price will be based on that return using the concept of a payback period. For a 3kW system costing $6000, they get their money back after 5 years. So if we offer a more competitive payback, of 4 years, we can charge $480 for our installation. However, since we go through installers as a middle man, we will likely have to offer a generous cut to them so it is likely that we charge at 4.5 years payback ($540) and the installers receive $108 (20% commission) giving us $422>$300 (raw prod costs). Our cost will drop as we scale so we can also drop the cost of our add-on, making it even more competitive. These prices are based on the already well established rooftop solar market so we know our customers are able and willing to pay that much for that much more solar power.