Where Do Solar Panels Go When They Die?

Imagine this: you're dancing away at a
music festival when you realise your phone needs charging or else you won't
be able to find your way back to your friends for the headliner at 10:00. You
look around but, surprise, surprise, there aren't a lot of plugs in the middle of
the forest. Perhaps there's a charging station nearby.
After a quick walk down a dirt path you come across this stand-up solar panel.

It
provides you immediate access to charge your phone and organize a meeting place
with your friends, thanks to the EasyPanel, the off-grid power generator built with
refurbished solar panels. SunCrafter is pairing the circular economy with clean
energy in an innovative project called EasyPanel. The ambitious team's first
product has been launched successfully in the events market as an up-cycled
off-grid energy source for 200 to 600 watt purposes. We had the chance to speak
with the founder of SunCrafter, Lisa Wendzich in Abu Dhabi at the World Energy
Congress last year. Up-cycling makes a lot of sense because there's a lot of PV
panels actually going to waste, and it's like a very valuable energy source, and
we have found the means to reuse them so they don't need to be recycled.
Apart from that problem we're really trying to fix the energy access problem
by providing the super affordable system and very easy tech system. So, it's
affordable of course because of the up cycling, also because of the off-grid
aspect because you don't need the infrastructure so it's all made to be as
maintenance-free as possible, and I think this is a real crucial aspect when
you're looking into energy access because in many places where energy
access is a topic you don't have much like serviceability or maintenance ability.

The company has basically repackaged
refurbished PV panels into grid free power stations. The stations are limited
to operations requiring 200 to 600 watts, so they're useful for applications such
as charging basic necessities or running lamps. The solar panel sits on the ground
and is big enough that most anyone could carry it. One potential application could
be rural areas where it's normal for people to travel miles to charge their
personal devices. The Easy Panel would make it possible to bring charging points
directly to homes to save time and travel for rural inhabitants. The company
sees this as a future potential market. So the core product is the SunCrafter
EasyPanel, and that's pretty much just a disused solar panel that we upcycle with
our particular technology, and that makes the panel like a lower voltage output
gives it a lower wattage output it makes it just very robust, and you can charge
your device right off the panel if you want to, and we're sort of like embedding
this technology into different environments depending on the use case.
So what we've been working on in the last years was mainly the event sector,
where we provide temporary events energy infrastructure, and the next market we're
entering is Micro e-Mobility.

SunCrafter has taken its own approach to
building its presence in the energy startup scene. A common saying in the
startup scene is move fast and break things, and while the risk taking ability
is part of the thrill of the industry, SunCrafter believes there's a benefit
to doing it another way. Lisa and the SunCrafter team have taken a unique
approach to entering their target market of humanitarian aid, a market worth about
1.8 billion Euros.

So we are pretty much building in four stages. Our ultimate
target market is humanitarian aide which is what we initially started out to do,
and we've taken a very low risk entrance with events so now we're like
financially stable and independent in the event market and heading into the
public space and to urban infrastructure. I think if you get money very early I
could imagine you more bound to make mistakes faster and I know that's a
requirement in the startup scene, it's like move fast and break things but it's
not the only way to do things. You can also take a little bit slower and do
something solid before you head on to the next thing. I think we're proving
that that works and I think there shouldn't be, it shouldn't be so
narrow-minded that there's only one way of doing startup I don't really see that
I think it's also a legitimate way to do a bit of everything.

With the current
crisis underway it will be a while till we are able to attend events and worry
about charging our electronics, but in the meantime SunCrafter has pivoted to
make sure these future experiences will also be sanitary. The team built a
portable UVC hand sanitising station, earning them a winning position in the
Global Hack. For now we'll have to wait to try it ourselves but in the meantime
you can check out more about their technology from home at suncrafter.org..

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