The task of commercialising and mainstreaming cleantech technology was top of the bill at the inaugural GrowthBusiness New Energy & Cleantech Conference.
Two solar power entrepreneurs took to the floor at the New Energy & Cleantech Conference to discuss how their businesses were using the concept of solar and taking it into new and innovative markets.
First to speak was Perry Carroll, founder of The Solar Cloth Company, who said that for many cleantech companies finding customers is the biggest challenge. Issues such as the proof of concept, and whether the technology will be around in a number of years, are very releveant and problematic.
He added, ‘You have to think, when you are mainstreaming something, how you are going to look at your marketing, media plan and how long it will take you?. I started this [The Solar Cloth Company] about seven years ago, and in April we’ll have our first installation up.’
Carroll’s business began though a desire to create a solar sail for use on yachts. In developing the technology, he and the company’s team began to look for wider applicaions and arrived at the world’s first thin film solar car parking shade.
Consumers, he explained to delegates, have to be able to have greater exposure to cleantech products. Entrepreneurs in the space need to look at new areas and applicaions.
He added, ‘It is all about making sure you are mainstreaming an idea the public can get. It’s important to ensure that you are clear of you path, not as a company but as an industry.’
Second to address the issue of mainstreaming cleantech products was Simon Bransfield-Garth, CEO of Azuri Technologies. Bransfield-Garth’s business is bringing power, at scale, to off-grid customers in rural emerging markets.
The business manufactures Indigo, a technology which is being used by rural communities in Africa. Indigo was first developed by the Azuri team within the Cambridge university spin-out Eight19. Its first product deployments took place in September 2011 and Indigo now has an established presence across Africa
He said, ‘We started thinking more broadly than the general applicatoins, and took Azuri Technologies products to Africa where, in Zambia, the vast majroity still use candlelight.’
‘Rather than brining new products into a new market, it’s bringing new products into an established market. These countries aren’t swamped with solar panels, as this kind of technology does not have a sustianable business model.’
‘I think the key is that renewables are not a technology problem. The hard bit is in distribution and customer business model and as the cost of energy goes up in the west, people’s ideas of generic power will change and they will start thinking what do I get as a benefit.’