In HEAT we create panels that harvest energy night and day. During the day we can take advantage of sunlight and at night we use an effect known as radiative cooling.
Although our final goal is to produce large scale renewable energy and sell it to the power grid we have identified other markets that we can reach: autonomous systems (sensors in farming, meteorology and security; toys and standalone lights) that currently use solar panels and batteries. The batteries used in these systems are not only expensive but also very environmentally unfriendly. Moreover, their short lifetime compared to that of the solar panels strongly increases maintenance costs of these systems.
Our solution substitutes both the solar panel and the battery since our panels produce energy during day and night. We decided to focus our first efforts in the standalone lighting market. Its size is attractive (3000 M€ are spent in Spain every year in public illumination) and its prices make our panels competitive. In addition to this, as we avoid the use of batteries, our solution is more environmentally friendly than solar panels with batteries. This fact will attract customers concerned with the environment. Of course, our panels can be connected to the power grid to sell the energy produced when illumination is not needed.
We have identified standalone lighting manufactures as our first clients. Currently they buy solar panels and batteries (our competence). Our decision to sell our product to manufacturing companies and not to the final user of the lighting solution simplifies manufacture, distribution and marketing allowing for a faster development of our project. We will contact directly these already identified companies in specialized fairs and business to business. The flexibility of our design allows its adaptation to the particular needs of our customers. To attract more customers we will validate the technology in a public lamppost.
In 2015-2016 we validated scientifically our project. Radiative cooling is an effect known since a long time ago (for example, it was used to produce ice in desert places in ancient Persia) but studies to harvest energy from this effect date from this decade. Current proposals to produce power from radiative cooling are very expensive or technically impracticable. However, these ideas were the seed of our project. Our design is focused in producing cheap energy instead of following the common path of maximizing the power produced. This innovative strategy led us to our current panel design in 2017.
In 2016 we also made the first field experiments to check that the effect was strong enough for our purposes. The results were very clear and they helped us through the design process.
In April 2018 we won one of the "best idea certificate" in actúaupm (the entrepreneurship program of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid) and the process to transform our idea in something real, a company, began. A lot of effort was put in developing the business model leading to our first business plan. This plan represented an important milestone in this project since we identified standalone lighting systems as another potential market for our innovation, in addition to the market of renewable energy generation. It was an excellent idea since it allowed us to win one of the "best start up certificate" of actúaupm in November 2018, giving our project a big recognition despite our early stage.
In July 2018 we entered the Greenhouse competition, another crucial milestone since we received funds to produce the first prototype of the panel and develop a short video explaining our project to the laymen, potential customers and investors. We are currently improving our design and contacting potential customers interested on this innovation.