SolarCentury’s C21 is a natural fit for Sony 07.09.07
C21 from Solar Century
Derry Newman, COO of SolarCentury, talks to naturalchoices about the link up with Sony’s UK Technology Centre to make the revolutionary C21 solar roof tile, and Solar Century’s strategy in the UK and beyond.
The C21 is in essence a solar panel that fits onto the roof exactly like a roof tile, it is the width of 4 standard roof tiles, much lighter, and fits perfectly into the design of the building. The tiles use the latest in solar technology and a solar roof can provide 60% of an average home electricity needs. There are photo voltaic and thermal varieties which combined into one roof proved hot water and give power to a home. Aesthetically a roof integrating C21s is a huge step forward from existing PV and solar thermal systems. For this reason a C21 roof does not require planning permission, apart from in areas with a protection order.
Until now the C21 tiles, which were designed and developed by SolarCentury, have been produced on a small scale by a company in the Midlands. However with a 300% increase in demand in 2007, next 2007/8 sales are set for £4 million and 2008/9 the target is £12 million. The existing supplier could not scale up their production process, to meet the increased demand production had to be moved up to an industrial scale and this is were Derry’s old work connections played a major role. Before taking up his present position Derry was the Senior Vice President of Operations Sony Europe and Managing Director of Sony UK Ltd. He saw the possibilities of work with his old company straight away.
“One of the Sony UK Technology Centre’s key production lines was traditional TV sets, now with flat screen replacing old cathode ray tubes these are sourced from Asia. The Sony Centre, set up in 1970s, have a huge experience and knowledge of making traditional TV sets. A TV set is basically a piece of glass wrapped in plastic, which is at its most basic is what a solar panel is.”
“The synergies were obvious, there was Sony with the experience and a highly skilled workforce and here was SolarCentury with the product and the demand.”
SolarCentury’s sales strategy centres on the unique nature of the C21, traditional PV cells and solar thermal systems are fitted over the existing roof, the C21 is the roof itself. This means that the ideal time to fit a Complete Solar Roof is at the building stage or when a house needs to be entirely re-roofed.
“In the UK we don’t tend to re-roof very often but we are building 160,000 new houses every year”, say Derry, “So with the C21 we are talking direct to building companies, developers and architects.”
As well as targeting the specifies and decision makers Solar Century are also talking directly to the men and women who will fit the roofs themselves, “We are running education and training programmes with the National Federation of Roofing Contractors. Roofers love the C21, it’s light, easy to handle and one C21 takes the space of four standard tiles, a C21 roof takes a quarter of the time to fit.”
The take up from new build projects has been very strong, with St. James Homes, Barratt Homes, Fairview New Homes and Glesson Homes all developing projects that integrate the C21 into the design.
“The C21 is the next generation of solar, it moves beyond the early adopters and is taking low carbon homes into the mainstream. When you buy a new home you specify with the developer the options you want, a bathroom like this, a kitchen like that, we are working to have a solar roof as one of those options.”
With the introduction of the energy certificate in the Home Improvement Pack, the C21 can lead to your home getting an A rated automatically, not does the investment hedge against increases in energy prices, and reduce your regular bills, it also adds long term value to your home. According to the Energy Savings Trust a solar home could be worth up to 10% more than a totally grid powered home. “We already have seen that a home fitted with solar achieved an 8% higher price that an otherwise identical adjacent home”.
SolarCentury is already the UK’s largest solar company, however their ambitions do not stop at the Channel. They have recently completed a round of new financing that raised £13.5 million to both fund product development and their new offices in Spain, France and possibly Italy, Derry had just come back from Italy when we spoke.
Each of these new markets is different, for example in France the new build rate is similar to the UK but they do re-roof old properties in the renovation process. The planning regulations mean that roofs have to fit in with existing designs, one of the new product developments will be to make a C21 that looks similar to the black slate very popular in the North of the country. In Spain new build is much higher, with 400,000 new properties being built every year, also the Spanish government require every new build to have a system to heat its own water. “The C21t solar thermal cell is unique in the market because of the way it combines aesthetical with functional, the Spanish sales office is incredibly busy which bodes very well for the future”.
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