Consumers across the world are warming up to the use of solar energy. Solar power systems derive clean and pure energy from the sun, and help combat greenhouse gas emissions.
For the past few years, India has also been contemplating switching to solar panels for producing electricity.
While many organisations are working towards developing solar panels to solve the electricity crisis, Noida-based Inoviea is trying to enhance the efficiency of these panels through its automatic cleaning system.
Founded by Suchin Jain in 2014, Inoviea Consulting & Services (a brand of Inoviea Ventures Private Limited) aims to provide an automated and water-less self-cleaning system for solar rooftop panels to enhance the electricity production.
Speaking to YourStory, Suchin says, the dust deposit on the panels can reduce the electricity production. “We are using a combined system of slippery coating and compressed air to keep the solar panels clean from dust. The entire process is done without water or human interventions automatically, and that too multiple times in a day,” Suchin says.
How does it work?
The solution can be installed in both existing and new solar panels. Suchin says, the coating over the panels does not allow dust to stick to the panels, and the air compressors installed across the solar panel helps in blowing away the dust.
Suchin also claims that this solution helps in increasing the power generation by almost 30 to 100 percent, and thereby reduces the payback period by up to 40 percent. Apart from this, Suchin says the automatic cleaning solution helps saving one billion litres of water per GW (gigawatt) annually. This solution, according to him, can also save 1,700 tonnes of CO2 per GW every day.
According to Suchin, the traditional cleaning methods of solar panels, which is manual, is extremely dangerous as the cleaners are at a high risk of getting electrocuted or falling off from the roof. Inoviea solves these issues with its automatic cleaning system.
The air compressors run on nine percent of the increased power being produced as a result of the cleaning, and thus it does not use any extra amount of electricity to power itself.
“Presently, we are procuring the components from other Indian manufacturing partners, but in future, we would like to set up our own manufacturing unit for producing the parts,” Suchin says.
What led the entrepreneur to start up?
A naval architect for the Indian navy, Suchin says he wanted to utilise his expertise in technology to provide high-tech solutions and innovations, and thus launched Inoviea. He says, there is a lot of potential to utilise solar power in India because government and electricity departments now allow individuals to harness their own solar electricity to power their homes.
He adds that the market for solar energy in India has immense potential as the central government is looking to achieve the target of having 40 GW capacity solar rooftop panels installed by 2022 in order to make a shift towards sustainable energy.
He says that currently, solar rooftops worth 3 GW capacity have already been installed in India. Inoviea has been granted Indian patent for this technology, and the company has also filed for an international patent through the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).
Funding and business model
Speaking about the funding, Suchin says the company has been facing challenges to raise funding. He explains that Inoviea is looking to raise its Seed round of funding to scale up its operations and is expecting more orders for the solution.
The startup is currently bootstrapped and Suchin has spent around Rs 35 lakh on the startup in his own capacity.
Explaining the business model, he says the startup is now focussing on rooftop panels. It provides EPC (Engineering, Procurement, and Construction) and installation of the solution for B2C clients. For B2B clients, it also provides the licence for the technology, designing, and project management for the installation.
The price of the solution is largely dependent on the size of the solar rooftops. Suchin explains that the installation of the solution for 10 kWh can cost the users around Rs 2 lakh, for 100 kWh, it can cost around Rs 15 lakh, and installation for a 1 Mwh system can cost somewhere between Rs 1-1.5 crore. At present, two projects have been deployed in Noida.
According to the founder, Inoviea has grown 100 percent year-on-year for the last five years, and has maintained positive cash flow, and is maintaining a turnover of Rs 1-1.2 crore every year.
Suchin says, the startup also won $500 from a Facebook competition, and was also incubated at Nexus, a collaboration between the American Embassy, New Delhi, and ACIR to support entrepreneurship, innovation, and technology in America and India.
Competition and plans ahead
Suchin said that the company is currently aimed at setting up its own manufacturing unit to ramp up its production and capture the entire Indian market. Apart from this, the company is also looking to foster joint ventures abroad by licensing the technology.
Speaking about competition, Suchin says that while Inoviea does not have direct competition in India, its major competitors are manual solar panel cleaners and robotic cleaning solutions.
However, Suchin adds that Inoviea solutions have an edge as manual cleaning is extremely dangerous and also can cause loss of life. Apart from this, cleaning solar panels using robots needs humans and manpower to handle it efficiently. Also, the major advantage of this solution is that it does not require water to clean the panels, hence no amount of water wastage.
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