Blog 2015 Mar 29
I’m Shawn Buckley, President of Focused Sun. This is the first of a series of blogs to begin a dialog with those that want to learn more about our solar technology. Anyone can read the blog, but if you wish to respond to it, you must be registered. Registering has another value: it let’s us know who you are and what are your needs.
First let me tell you about those that have already registered. You represent 25 different countries around the world, covering every continent except Antarctica. The USA represents about a third of the 60 registrants that want to start a solar factory. But other countries South Africa, India, Egypt and Nigeria also have many registrants. While I’m sure many of you may just have a passing interest, others are actively beginning to start a solar factory. Many of you already do solar energy installations and are interested in this new technology.
CHINA: My wife Margo and I are just back from 3 weeks in China. We’d been there 42 times before this trip – but had not gone in 6 years. Margo is a China scholar with a degree in China History from the University of California, Santa Cruz plus work toward her Master’s in Indigenous Chinese Philosophy at San Jose State.
Our task was to establish a relationship with the Xiang Yang Institute. One of you asked if there really was a Xiang Yang Institute: they could find no mention of it on the web. I tried myself and only found references to our own press releases.
Yes, it does exist. It is a new institute formed jointly by Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST) in Wuhan China and the Hubei University of Arts and Sciences (HUAS) in Xiang Yang, China. Hubei in central China is the province in which both universities are located. HUST is one of China’s top technical universities and where I’ve been a consulting professor of mechanical engineering since 1993. Many in China think HUST has the best ME Dept. in China.
That said, the new facility for the Institute is not yet completed. Its temporarily location is at HUAS, a 20,000 student university in Xiang Yang. The facility is being built at a high tech park closer near the new bullet train station in Xiang Yang.
Only the parking lot and first floor are done now but the entire building is to be finished by year’s end. When completed, the Institute will have a 16-story high main building and 3 smaller support buildings.
Focused Sun and the Xiang Yang Institute have signed an agreement to jointly develop our technology for use in China. XYI will set up a pilot production plant that will produce FourFold modules. They are also working with the city of Xiang Yang to fund a demonstration of our Microgrid module.
The partnership with XYI has two important aspects. First, China sourcing will be a part of the development. Many of the components we use for energy conversion and control are made in China. The best prices for our solar factory will be among the best prices worldwide. Second, we will have access to the China market through the Chinese government. The purpose of the FourFold factory is to make enough modules that can be demos elsewhere in China. Hubei Arts and Science University is a teacher university well suited to train others in China how to make and install Focused Sun panels.
I learned other important things in China. One is that China has advanced incredibly in the six years since I was last there. Bullet trains are everywhere, all with brand new train stations. What was once a 17-hour train ride from Shenzhen near Hong Kong to Wuhan where HUST is located is now a 5-hour bullet train ride.
Wuhan, once a slowly moving inland city, is now a thriving cosmopolitan city of 15 million. Cars, that used to be the exception, are now everywhere.
While China is advancing very quickly, they are still very polluted. Chinese think this is one of the most important issues that they face. I grew up in Pittsburgh whose steel mills made it one of the most polluted US cities of the time. I lived in Los Angeles at its worst pollution in the early 80s. China is worse than either of those cities.
That same pollution is an incentive for China to clean up its air with renewables. I was surprised to see the number of hot water heaters in China. Just from the train, I could see dozens of them on the roofs of apartment buildings.
These were not photovoltaic (PV) panels, they were solar water heaters about the same size as our FourFold module. In the US, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a solar water heater.
Chinese solar water heaters are quite advanced. Their collector is an evacuated tube with coatings on the tubes to prevent infrared losses, much like those in our Microgrid module. They use the thermosyphon effect to pump solar heated water into a storage tank above the collectors.
More important, China has an infrastructure for installing water heaters into local buildings: customers that have already been sold on the value of solar, installers who know how to connect to the building’s plumbing, components such as insulated tanks that are about the size of a FourFold tank.
In the US, we tell customers that we have a solar PV system that also provides hot water. In China we can tell customers that we have a solar water heater that also provides electricity. One could replace each of the water heaters in China with a FourFold module and cut 300 coal powered power plants in China.
In summary, it was a good trip. China represents both a partner with whom to commercialize our product and a market where that product be sold.