Solarus’s social and environmental objectives win Erasmus Energy Business Award
Inspiring and creative ideas for the transition to using renewable energy have been recognised at the Erasmus Energy Awards, presented during the Erasmus Energy Forum 2017 in Rotterdam on 28 and 29 June. Solarus, a producer of hybrid power collectors, won the Stedin Erasmus Energy Business Award, and a research paper on the hot topic of blockchain technology for the energy sector by Dr Marius Buchmann won the Erasmus Energy Science Award. The winning ideas were shown to an international audience of investors, regulators, innovators and academics at the event, hosted by the Erasmus Centre for Future Energy Business based at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM). It became clear from presentations and discussions at the event that the mental framework for implementing the energy transition has become an important theme.
Stedin Erasmus Energy Business Award 2017 winner: Solarus
The winner of the Stedin Erasmus Energy Business Award 2017 is Solarus, a company based in Venlo in the Netherlands and one of the three finalists to be shortlisted by a jury of energy experts. The other two finalists were Stored Energy and Pear.ai. All three displayed their concepts at the Erasmus Energy Expo at the Forum. Solarus develops, produces and sells hybrid solar PowerCollectors™ with a peak efficiency of up to 70 per cent.
After the announcement of the winner, Francesco Mazza, Solarus’s Sales Engineer, took the stage to pitch the company’s concept to the Energy Forum’s international and influential audience. With 3,000 PowerCollectors already installed all over the world, the company’s production line produces a new unit every six minutes, he said, providing hot water and power for hotels, process industry and other professional and residential customers. Solarus was founded in 2006 and is a member of London’s Social Stock Exchange, a marketplace to help investors to identify impact companies; it plans to issue shares in 2019. Francesco Mazza explained how the company reached customers: “When we enter a new market we analyse the economic situation and energy prices, and look for a strong partner to enter the best sector for that market but also to open a local assembly line. We assemble the units in that country to provide employment, make the logistics more sustainable and reduce the costs of transport.”
The units combine technologies: harvesting heat and producing electricity from one integrated platform. This platform uses a curved mirror to reflect sunlight onto the receiver surfaced with solar cells and with heat extraction cooling channels inside. Normal PV panels have an energy efficiency of 20 per cent at peak power but Solarus PowerCollectors reach 70 per cent, of which 20 per cent is delivered in electricity and 50 per cent in heat.
Solarus offers third generation hybrid power collectors; a hybrid photovoltaic-thermal PowerCollector producing heat and electricity, and a thermal version that produces only heat. Systems can be tied to the grid, or completely independent of it, for heating or for cooling. They can be used in a stationary non-tracking mode, mounted on rooftops, in the open, on facades of buildings, or in the roof. They come with a remote maintenance and monitoring system. The company has offices in the Netherlands, Sweden, South Africa and India.
The jury said Solarus’ hybrid concept is innovative with its high efficiency. The Solarus portfolio shows the systems may have a significant effect, not least for people with no access to grid energy. The systems facilitate the reduction of local air pollution and creates local employment, while delivering heat and power from solar energy adds to sustainability.
The jury for the Erasmus Energy Business award included energy industry experts from some of the world’s most innovative and exciting companies comprised Volker Beckers, Chair of the ECFEB Advisory Board, former CEO of RWE Npower; Dirk Schlesinger, Chief Digital Officer, TÜV SÜD; Rick Heerink, Change & Innovation Manager, Stedin; Ruud Melieste, Economist, Corporate Strategy at Port of Rotterdam; and Fred van Beuningen, Director, Clean Tech Delta. The audience at the Energy Forum added their opinions to that of the jury to decide the winner. Whatch the video here.
Erasmus Energy Forum
The Erasmus Energy Forum explored how business should approach a 100% renewable energy landscape, with speakers from business, government and universities, including CEOs of Siemens, Envision Energy, the Dutch Minister for the environment and the director of the International Renewable Energy Agency. Read the full report of the Erasmus Energy Forum online here.
Runner Up: Pear.ai
Pear.ai presented ‘Sam’, a virtual energy assistant for businesses to get to grips with their energy data and expenses without expensive software tools or consulting services. Companies can hire Sam, which works on all kinds of devices and learns from user feedback, to support teams or departments in all kinds of situations. It keeps track of energy usage and expenditure while scanning the market for new technologies, subsidy or incentive programmes, or simply cheaper tariffs. Sam can also provide answers to detailed questions about the business’ energy use from the data available.
Christopher McLachlan from Pear.ai said virtual assistants are set to change how businesses handle some of the tasks involved in running a business. They can become trusted team members in the businesses they support, and give owners of smaller businesses detailed information for managing energy. “With Sam, businesses can better set the right priorities for getting the best deals and navigating through new technologies and energy companies.” The company combines the latest data analytic technologies with deep energy expertise and advanced designs for user interfaces to help customers manage their energy matters without having to become energy experts. “We aim to continue to delight,” Christopher McLachlan said. “We make the stuff you have to do as much fun as possible. If it's worth doing, then do it with a party hat!”
For larger companies with multiple energy stakeholders and locations, Sam facilitates the internal exchange of information about status, or background checks on outliers or events, making company alignment faster and more transparent, and driving energy management across the whole organisation.
The jury said virtual assistants are not new, but the way Pear.ai’s Sam has been designed to include social media and an app is rare; it’s a smart tool and a simple concept with economic viability in the target market. They questioned the extent to which consumer behavior will change, but pointed out that it could have a big impact on people’s business activities and as a result, also affect their private behaviour because of the way it raises awareness of energy use.
Runner up: Stored Energy
StoredEnergy presented its approach for initiating and realising energy storage projects. The company assesses how much storage capacity is needed, and installs the appropriate technology. A suitable business case and project financing is also part of their solution. “Because the technology is very scalable, we can serve residential consumers as well as large commercial enterprises,” said Rob den Exter, Owner-director.
For households, Stored Energy’s energy storage systems comprises a battery and an intelligent battery charger that monitors supply and demand for electricity. When the system registers a surplus of solar energy, it will automatically charge the battery. At night, the system uses stored energy to supply power to the household.
Larger-scale systems work on the same principle but with extra features in the energy storage system. The system can reduce peak demands, provide back-up power and recharging for electric vehicles, as well as detailed reports of current energy consumption, available roof surface for photovoltaics, local weather conditions and power demand. Customers’ system storage capacities can also be traded on energy markets to balance use across the power grids; Stored Energy customers then get a return on their investments.
The company maintains its independence but has acquired comprehensive knowledge and a network of hardware and software suppliers, installation companies, distribution system operators (DSOs) and financiers, and the latest technologies. “Using sophisticated software we can provide insights into complex issues. Our huge international network means we can provide the best available technical solutions,” said Robin den Exter.
“Wind and solar are rapidly becoming widespread and affordable, but the problem is they are unpredictable, so the system needs to be buffered. Energy storage is the answer to the need for buffering.”
The jury said Stored Energy, as a local start-up with a turnkey solution, had an interesting concept that was innovative as a single point of contact for maximising use of renewable energy; it’s unique to a certain extent, they said, but should anticipate more competition in the near future.
Erasmus Energy Science Award 2017
A winner was picked from papers submitted to the academic conference on Science Day at the Erasmus Energy Forum 2017, also known as the Energy Informatics & Management conference (EIM 2017) on Wednesday, 28 June. The judges were looking for research that best pairs practical relevance to future energy business, and presents new findings with scientific rigour.
A paper from Dr Marius Buchmann, Research Associate at Bremen Energy Research (BER), Jacobs University Bremen won the Erasmus Energy Science Award. The judges commented that Dr Buchmann’s paper is policy research that reflects growing awareness of blockchain technology within the energy sector; the opportunities it presents and the challenges it faces.
His paper, Blockchain in the energy sector: Applications and institutional implications investigates the hot topic of blockchain technology for the energy sector. Blockchain technology, a secure decentralised and digitalised ledger containing and maintaining a growing set of data (such as energy usage) is still in its infancy and needs to prove it can meet high expectations. Dr Buchmann’s paper explores its potential applications – and the implications for not only the retail sector, but also the power network sector and the regulation of network operators.
For example, decentralized energy providers (such as households that can generate electricity from photovoltaic equipment) sell locally produced electricity to their neighbours via blockchain. Most devices connected to the electricity grid have access to the same blockchain. Buchmann concludes that generators could sell directly to consumers to strengthen the integration of generation and retail business. Retail may not remain an independent part of the supply chain, he says, but instead become an automated and autonomous process conducted by generators and consumers themselves. He also identifies an opportunity for reducing the asymmetry of information between regulators and network operators.
A panel of six judges reviewed the submitted papers; Prof. Peter Palensky, Chair of Intelligent Electrical Power Grids, TU Delft; Prof. Gilbert Fridgen, Professor of Information Systems and Sustainable IT Management, University of Bayreuth; Jan Paul Buijs, Manager CIO Office at Enexis; Dr Tobias Brandt, Assistant Professor at the Department of Technology and Operations Management at RSM; Dr Yashar Ghiassi-Farrokhfal, Assistant Professor at the Department of Technology and Operations Management at RSM; and Wolf Ketter, Professor of Next Generation Information Systems at RSM.
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