Tech start-up launches crowdfunding campaign for ‘rollable’ solar-plus-storage system

A crowdfunding campaign has been launched for a highly mobile ‘rollable’ solar system that can deploy 18kW of solar in two minutes.

“Roll-Array” from UK startup Renovegan is a commercial-scale portable power system that combines solar PV with energy storage. The system has been developed over three years specifically for high mobility, fast deployment and ease of use.

The current system is available in a trailer unit that contains a spool of solar PV that can be unrolled on a variety of ground surfaces. This system can go up to 18kW in size and can be deployed quickly without the need for solar engineers on-site. The systems can also offer up to 53kWh of battery storage, with a 100kWh system in development.

The system has been designed specifically for deployment in remote locations where power sources are required quickly, such as areas of disaster relief or humanitarian aid. It has been developed with tensile fabrics to ensure durability and is reportedly abrasion and cut proof. Renovegan says the system offers a 200-deployment cycle with a standard ten-year lifelime.

Speaking to Solar Power Portal earlier today, John Hingley, managing director of Renovagen, said: “People are always looking for the next big clean tech invention. We've got a lot of investors who are interested in the humanitarian and disaster relief applications so it potentially fits a social angle but there are a lot of commercial and industrial applications as well.

“I think the fact that it’s a very easy to understand concept in terms of a solar farm which unrolls like a carpet means that people get it and get the benefits of it and they've not seen anything like it before."

The current equity funding campaign, launched through Crowdcube, is seeking a minimum of £600,000 to pay for upcoming demonstration projects, as well other cost for entering the market.

The company plans to develop a larger, shipping-container sized system in 2017 which will be able to deploy 300kW of solar in less than an hour with a battery storage system of between 800kWh to 1MW. Hingley said this larger system – like the smaller version - can be deployed alongside others in parallel to build up multi-MW power plants.

The potential of the product to deploy rapid generation capacity in remote areas has attracted an advisory board from a range of relevant industries. It includes general Sir Mike Jackson (retired), ex chief of general staff for the British Army; Brendan Ryan, former global head of business evaluation at mining company Rio Tinto; and is chaired by the ex chief executive of Climate Change Capital, Mark Woodall.

"I think they immediately understood the usefulness of this as an invention that's applicable to their industries and I think they were all enthusiastic about it right from the start,” said Hingley. “It was great to get these very senior people on board and that they appreciated the effort and commitment that we've put in to get as far as we've got.”

As of this morning, Renovegan had already raised a third of its target investment on its first day, with investors offered EIS tax relief to invest in the product.

Assuming the cash is successfully raised, Hingley says the immediate plans for the company would see its product grown in scale and made suitable for general sale before being used in a number of ongoing markets and situation around the world.

"Our priority right now is to prove the market and the product at the smaller scale and then once we've done that we'll move onto the larger scale.

"We'd really like to get units to South America, Africa, perhaps in Australia and deploy units in live environments in these target industries. I'd love to see a unit deployed in a refugee camp for example or in a disaster relief scenario. We'd love to get one on a mining site, we've already done a live military exercise with NATO which was great but we'd like to do more of that as well."

The price per unit depends on the specification of solar capacity and battery storage. Hingley says the rough price in 2016 will be £50,000 - £110,000 which will primarily be for demonstration, however by next year it is estimated this could be as low as £35,000 with prices expected to continue falling in later years.

Hingley added: “Considering that an equivalent £10,000 diesel generator could burn £30,000-£50,000 of fuel every year in a remote location (or more), this still provides pretty good return on investment.”