A global shift towards renewable energy has been observed in the past few years. In addition to the wide-scale adoption of the existing renewable energy technologies, countries across the world have been focusing on developing new ones. One such innovation is smartflower, an intelligent all-in-one solar system by Austria-based company smartflower energy technology GmbH.
The product was conceptualised by Alexander Swatek, founder, smartflower, during a discussion on the complicated installation of traditional rooftop systems. In a bid to launch the first all-in-one highly efficient solar system, the flower blossom design of smartflower was invented. The product is designed as a flower with petals made up of solar modules. During sunrise, these petals automatically clean themselves and then open up to cover an area of 18 square metres. The system faces the sun and keeps moving with it throughout the day, using dual-axis tracking, thereby maximising the solar energy generation. The nominal output of the smartflower system is 2.31 kWp with output ranging from 3,400 kWh to 6,200 kWh per annum, depending on the region. The self-utilisation of the generated energy for a residential set-up is around 60 per cent (it goes up to 90 per cent with its product, smartflower POP+). The harvested energy can also be stored with integrated batteries and synchronised with smart home automation via mobile devices, preventing owners from relying on the grid. The smartflower system can provide 50 per cent more efficiency as compared to a traditional rooftop system, owing to various features that are as follows:
- Installation: The system is attached to the ground at the selected site using earth anchor or concrete foundation and is operational in approximately one hour.
- Tracking: The smartflower system moves on dual axis and therefore, constantly faces and follows the sun, making the system up to 40 per cent more efficient than a traditional rooftop installation.
- Cleaning: It removes dust and other particles on opening and closing of its petals.
- Cooling: Uses back-ventilated solar modules, making them 10 °C-20 °C cooler than rooftop installations, and hence more efficient.
- Generation: Panels are equipped with high efficiency monocrystalline cells.
- Safety: With the help of sensors, smartflower automatically retracts its petals at wind speeds of over 63 km per hour to avoid damage. When the speed drops, the petals automatically unfold again.
- Mobility: The system is self-contained and portable, allowing owners to take it with them even when they are on the move.
- Storage: smartflower POP+ has an integrated storage unit with 2.3 kWh or 4.6 kWh of capacity.
- Control: Optimised self-consumption of harvested solar energy by intelligent distribution of power between battery, smart home devices and the grid.
- Application: Besides residential and commercial areas, it can be be used in remote areas. For instance, it has been used to provide electricity during humanitarian crises.
Established in 2010, the company has offices in Güssing and Vienna, Austria. It produces the panels in association with its partner Energetica. With manufacturing facilities in Pinkafeld, Austria, the company aims to maintain the high quality of its product, as against mass production under critical and non-controllable circumstances. At present, its facilities produce about 150 units per month. Since its inception, more than 1,000 units have been installed in 20 European countries. The recommended retail price in Austria starts at Euro 15,000 including 20 per cent value added tax. The standard product warranty in Europe, the US and Canada is two years, which can be extended further. The product is sold through a worldwide network of authorised distribution partners. The company has received numerous awards such as the Green Good Design 2016 award, the Red Dot 2016 award, the Born Global Champion 2015 award, and the Sustainable Entrepreneur Award 2015. In July 2016, the company launched its products in North America and is currently focusing on the European and US markets. It is also foraying into the markets of Canada, Latin America and the Middle East. In the future, the company sees India, South Africa and the Southeast Asia region as high-potential markets for its products.
Going forward, smartflower aims to continue producing smart, attractive and easy-to-handle solar systems for residential and industrial users all over the world. It also plans to tap the upcoming opportunities in the e-mobility segment as well as offer integrated storage systems in remote areas.