South African startup SolarCap has developed an innovative solar water pre-heating and electricity generation concept that brings both efficiency and aesthetics to solar roofing.SolarCap has developed a solar water pre-heating system that blends in perfectly with any new or existing roof yet is significantly cheaper than solar geyser systems currently available on the market.Co-founder Roy Patterson told Disrupt Africa the startup, which was founded in December 2014, would enable households to save on their electricity bills by reducing expensive grid consumption, while also providing hot water and electricity in regions where there is no electricity supply.
“The original concept was developed to offer a lower-cost, more durable, aesthetically improved and locally manufactured alternative into a market dominated by unsightly, low-quality imported systems,” he said.SolarCap is currently completing the final testing of its various coatings and production welding techniques, and will begin supply towards the end of September this year.“We have established opportunities within the house construction industry and estimate the supply of approximately 400 systems by the end of the year,” Patterson said.
He said there are numerous advantages to SolarCap, including energy cost savings of around ZAR400 (US$30) per month for the average South African household. The system is at least 40 per cent cheaper than other solar water heating systems, he said.The system requires little maintenance and should last for around 30 years, while also integrating well with existing electric or gas geyser systems. Patterson said those that purchase it would see a return on investment in 24 months.
Moreover, it simply looks better than other solar systems.
“I travel the N3 on a regular basis and every time I drove past Alexandra I cringed at how awful the houses looked because of the roof-mounted solar water heating systems,” Patterson said. “This got me thinking about aesthetic alternatives. I put pencil to paper and sketched a few design variations and after considering the manufacturability aspects I finally settled on SolarCap.”Though also a roof-mounted system, SolarCap is difficult to spot. The system is an extruded aluminium tank coated with a high absorption, low emission selective solar coating. The power generation is achieved via a thin flexible PV film wrapped onto the external surface of the SolarCap tube.
Patterson is confident the solution will see positive uptake both in South Africa and elsewhere in Africa, even without external funding.“We have self-funded the establishment of the business, design, prototype development and the funding of the initial production of the critical system components by local manufacturers,” he said.“We will initially target the South African house construction industry and will then expand into the rest of Africa.”