Solar Capture Technologies is a Blyth-based business with more than 38 years’ experience in solar research, development and manufacturing. The team aims to empower generations to use clean and renewable solar power solutions, and to make solar accessible to everyone. Lewis Caseley, Commercial Manager, explains how connections made through the North East Energy Catalyst are helping to take their new product to the next level.
How did you first make contact with the North East Energy Catalyst?
We saw the call-out for businesses to enter the North East Energy Catalyst’s Energy Innovation Challenge earlier this year and the theme of the challenge – which was all about reducing carbon emissions – fitted well with our business and the new technology we’re developing.
We’re working on a new product based on a lightweight solar material made from polymers and we’re now at the stage of wanting to access funding and demonstration sites, and get the product in front of the right people, and we thought that the Energy Innovation Challenge could help us do this.
Can you tell us more about Solar Capture Technologies and the products you’re developing?
The business has its roots in research and over the years we’ve worked with multiple research bodies and universities. More recently, we’ve moved more towards developing our own products and already have our solar panels in place on emergency roadside phones, ticket machines and bollards across the country’s road network.
Our latest product in development is the SolarFace which combines our advanced solar harvesting technology with high performance composite materials.
What makes your product different from what’s already out there?
SolarFace modules are really lightweight which means they can be used almost anywhere – not only on buildings but on cars, on commercial vehicles like ambulances, offshore, and we’re even working on a floating unit.
They are a quarter of the weight of traditional solar modules and can be manufactured to fit any shape. For example, when used on housing or commercial buildings, the panel forms the fabric of the roof as well as generating power.
We’ve also designed the product to operate at the lowest light levels, so they continue to generate energy through the winter.
It’s a ground-breaking product and to take the product to volume manufacture we needed investment and access to networks.
What happened as a result of entering the Energy Innovation Challenge?
The challenge went live just as the UK entered lockdown so the events we attended with the rest of the cohort were online. We’ve met other SMEs operating in the energy sector and made some interesting connections.
We’re also now applying for funding through the North East LEP’s Energy for Growth programme and working with David Lynch, the North East LEP’s Energy Innovation Partnership Manager, to make connections with organisations in the social housing and transport world, which will help us to secure sites to demonstrate SolarFace’s capabilities.
What’s next for you?
The profile of solar power is increasing as more and more people are looking for new ways to generate power and reduce carbon emissions. At the same time, businesses are beginning to understand how solar can help to save them money and improve their products.
There’s huge potential for us within the automotive industry, transport, public spaces and education, and we’re working with partners to demonstrate the possibilities for SolarFace – for example, we’ve created benches made from recycled plastic which incorporate the solar panels and can be used for phone charging, to boost wifi networks or to power lighting.
We’re also investing in upgrading our factory facilities and moving to mass manufacturing and automation which will make the product far more competitive.
The North East Energy Catalyst is ground-breaking partnership to unite the North East’s leading energy innovation, demonstration and delivery capabilities. Read more about the partnership here.
It is facilitated by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), and North East Energy Catalyst partners are: Newcastle University; Durham University; Northumbria University; Zero Carbon Futures (a subsidiary of Gateshead College); Northern Powergrid; Northern Gas Networks; The Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult; The British Engines Group; Innovation SuperNetwork; Northumbrian Water; The North of Tyne Combined Authority; The North East Combined Authority.
The North East Energy Catalyst is supported by ERDF and the Energy Innovation Challenge received grant funding from the government’s Local Growth Fund via the North East LEP.