Published on November 4th, 2017 | by Kyle Field0
Climate Launchpad 2017 Startup Spotlight: Sun Mill
November 4th, 2017 by Kyle Field
The team over at Climate Launchpad brought Andrea and me over to Cyprus for the epic Climate Launchpad Grand Final this year and we were blown away by the stretching solutions posed by the 105 startups in attendance.
To support the startups that make it into the Grand Final, the Climate Launchpad team has assembled an impressive lineup of mentors, trainers, and national leaders to help nurture their ideas, creations, and dreams from seed to fruition, which is watered and fed by a groundswell of energy and passion to help solve the climate change crisis through these annual Climate Launchpad events.
In this Startup Spotlight series, I have compiled a few of the startups that we connected with and interviewed over the course of the 1½ day event. We were eager to more broadly share the exciting work they are doing and the energy from the event. Considering that it was nearly impossible to even see all of the 105 startups in such a short time, we divided and conquered, running around like crazy people chatting up excited entrepreneurs until the sun went down … and perhaps even a bit longer.
Solar Mill — Harnessing Solar in Urban Environments
Solar power systems collect the power of the sun to use it for electricity generation or heating. To scale solar systems, more surface area is needed, which makes them especially challenging to integrate into dense urban cities packed with skyscrapers in which power usage density is extremely high relative to the available surface area on top.
Startup Un1imited believes it has the solution to this challenge in the form of its Sun Mill product that mounts to the sides of tall buildings and pulls in and concentrates solar energy for a number of downstream uses. The compact units were designed to mount to the exterior vertical walls of buildings, where they track the sun in two directions to harness as much sunlight as possible through the use of a series of sensors. The system is effective within a +/- 3 degree accuracy to minimize the number of times the system has to move throughout the day to maintain maximum output.
The team has plans to simplify the operation of the Sun Mills by moving away from sensors to software-based movement that instead relies on the predictable nature of the movement of the sun based on latitude, longitude, and the day of the year. Check out their technology page for a deeper dive into the tech and an animated rendering of the movement of a Sun Mill relative to the movement of the sun.
The harnessed sunlight is then funneled through the Sun Mill’s energy collection systems. First, about 42% of the energy is extracted by a photovoltaic solar system that takes the concentrated sunlight in and spits out electricity. Another 40% of the energy coming in is then converted to heat energy for use in a climate control system or water heating.
The units are intended to be offered to developers for integration at the time of construction or as a bundled retrofit for an entire building. As the units mount to the exterior of buildings, allowing residents to install the units as one-off installations would likely have a detrimental effect on the aesthetics of the building.
The team has currently developed a prototype unit to demonstrate the functionality of the Sun Mill. They are seeking €100,000 in funding to further develop the product and to build a proof of concept Sun Mill Pavilion. Installing a number of the units would allow the team to work out the design details of the units and test them in real-world conditions.
Looking farther ahead into the future, the team aspires to scale up operations and tap into the booming urban populations in China, where 50% of the world’s construction is expected to be over the next decade. Take a look at our interview below with the CEO and Founder, Lampson Leung, and his wife and business partner, Cheryl Leung, for more details on Sun Mill.