Start-up Solable makes waves on the renewable heat market

A strategy focused on renewable heat

Solable‘s aim is to develop systems with an ROI in less than seven years designed to capture, store and exploit renewable heat while dramatically reducing production costs. The Aix-en-Provence-based start-up, supported by KIC InnoEnergy France since 2015, looked at how the energy market works and thought it could do better. “Eighty percent of the energy used in the housing and tertiary sectors is ultimately for heating. But the solutions adopted are generally seen by the building industry as unprofitable,” explains Development Director Rémi Berthon.

Heat transfer technology is key

To keep costs as low as possible, Solable’s technology focuses on heat transfer coefficients with very low delta Ts. “For example,” Berthon continues, “instead of capturing heat from the sun and transmitting it to the final point of use, we are looking at closer heat sources such as capturing and re-using the heat from shower water at 40 °C.” But Solable is also keen to exploit reliable passive energy sources and very-low-temperature solar systems and use simple materials that are cheaper. “We have made a conscious decision not to design new materials and components; instead, we are customising what is already on the market.”

Turnover as early as 2016

The result is a range of products, some of which will soon be available commercially. As Rémi Berthon explains, the rollout will take place in three phases: “First we’re doing limited-volume testing with individuals and tech-savvy companies. Then we’ll be rolling out larger-scale operations which we’re hoping will make waves. And lastly we plan to sell licences to leading manufacturers.” For now, Solable is already generating a turnover, with some systems sold to institutions in the initial pilot phase. “We should reach 100,000 euros by the end of 2016,” estimates Rémi Berthon. Most of this will be generated by Solable’s most mature product, a water heater that recovers the heat from wastewater and injects it back into the shower unit that produced it, effectively creating a closed-circuit system. The idea is starting to catch on. “We’ll be launching a major pilot scheme in the last quarter of this year with ADEME, the French Environment and Energy Management Agency, which will be using the system in 50 dwellings.”

The next step will be product licensing in late 2017, with sales starting in early 2018.

Article initially published in La Tribune Marseille (21/07/2016).