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Published on december 31st, 2015 | by Jasper Hörmann

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Read the full interview with Rawlemon creator André Broessel.

Back in December 2013, we wrote about the Rawlemon glass solar energy generator: A beautifully designed solar energy device.

In the weeks after the launch of the Rawlemon Betaray, thousands of fans fanatically shared pictures of it on social media.

Based on that massive online support, we expected Rawlemon’s crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo to be a huge success. But when we checked the actual amount of funding last week, we were surprised: The campaign only collected just over $22,000, versus a goal of $120,000.

We reached out to Andre Broessel, creator of the concept, to ask why, and what his next steps are going to be. Read the interview here:

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People seem to adore the concept. For a few days, pictures of the Beta.ray were hard to miss on Google+ and Facebook. How has it been to receive so much support?

Clearly, our Beta.ray is something nobody was expecting. It’s transparent, it’s spherical, and it produces energy! We like to think that all these enthusiastic reactions from people is probably the same as Steve Jobs felt when he first presented the first MAC… I remember that day when Apple presented it… Everybody was like crazy. Do you remember that moment?

No, I wasn’t yet born back then, but I think I can understand the excitement. Can you tell me how and when you created this concept?

When I was working on the design of a new building, my daughter was playing with glass marbles. She was holding them in the sunlight and I saw what the marbles did with the light… I then realized: If we could concentrate sunlight and thereby multiply its impact on solar cells, it could have a huge impact.

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How do you explain that all this online support has not yet translated into massive amounts of funding on Indiegogo?

We are very proud of the thousands of shares and likes. For us, it means that we are on the right path. But we like to think we are still in the early beginning of our campaign to get people excited about our concept. We are confident that we’ll reach our next goal, which is $60,000.

To get people even more excited, we will very soon reveal new features on our Beta.ey products… For the moment this new feature is secret. But we will tell you more in a few days…

OK… What is your company’s plan anyway with the funding you’ll get through Indiegogo? And, have larger investors shown interest?

We are working with both ways of funding in parallel. People who support us on Indiegogo get the product they signed up for, such as the Beta.ey phone charger. But by buying these products, we think we can lower the costs of production for the larger projects we want to work on, such as a glass energy sphere with a diameter of 480 centimeter. Large investors have not yet shown interest. We are still looking to the right man/company to knock to the door and say: “Guys,I’m in!” We know that this will happen soon.

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Why would large investors open that door and say ” I’m in”?

We ended up 3rd in the World Technology Network Awards competition of in 2013, behind Tesla and BrightSource. I think that means we’re doing something right. But the difficult part is that our technology is still young. We need to be able to tell investors that the technology has worked as expected for 5 or 10 years in real life conditions. For that, we need pilot projects. And for that, we need money…

Another issue is that even the most sophisticated scientific computer models cannot predict what exactly happens when a ball lens captures light from all angles… We estimate that this technology can concentrate available light by up to 10,000 times, boosting the output of the small solar cells by a considerable amount. The potential of this technology is so huge that we can change the world.

We really need to think who will be the perfect long term partner. This partner needs to show us sufficient financial and philosophical support.

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You think this is a technology that could be a breakthrough in solar energy?

Definitely. I think this is going to change the industry. The Betaray is a beautiful proof-of-concept. But our vision is to equip every suitable building facade with our technology. Our concept is unique: Imagine applying our technology to the façade of every suitable building. Instead of only using a rooftop to collect solar power, you can use the entire building.

The cassette (see picture) we developed, contains 9 of our glass lenses, smartly positioned to capture the sunlight and concentrating this light on to a strip of the most efficient solar cells, called Multi-junction and Triple-junction cells. That’s actually a very important element of our solution. These cells have a far higher efficiency: These cells have a theoretical efficiency limit of 86%, way more than the maximum efficiency of a silicon solar cell of 34%.

The exciting thing is that we intend to build these cassettes in a way it is easily scalable. Just a matter of connecting the amount of cassettes needed to cover a building’s facade. Believe me, this concept is the future of solar energy.

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Before interviewing Andre, I tried to understand the potential of Rawlemon’s technology. Chris Clarke was one of the most complete and nuanced in reviewing the potential of Rawlemon’s concept:  

“Yes, those very small solar cells generate a lot more energy than they would if the glass ball lens wasn’t there. But the alternative is to put out several square meters of flat solar panels without the lens, which gives you more photovoltaic surface at significantly less cost. Not to mention avoiding a meter-wide sphere of glass and water on your roof, weighing more than 1,000 pounds.

That’s not to say Rawlemon’s technology doesn’t offer some promise. Ball lenses can collect and focus ambient light that flat-plate solar panels don’t use quite as efficiently. Rawlemon’s tech is intriguing at first glance, and may well offer solutions to problems we don’t yet know we have.

However, it is unlikely, with the ever-accelerating decline in standard PV prices, that Rawlemon will offer gains in efficiency for standard urban generation that would be cheaper than just buying a few more square meters of plain-vanilla solar-PV panels”.

 

andreGiven this insight, I asked André one final question: What if people are mostly interested because of the smooth looks of the device, not the technology?

I am absolutely convinced it will be a breakthrough technology. But let’s say someone else develops a better solution, I would be OK with that. Of course, I will have some sleepless night because I spent years of my life on my concept for nothing. But this is about solving one of the biggest problems of our generation. How to provide everyone of this planet with clean energy?

I dream of putting a huge Betaray in a place where people don’t have any access to electricity right now. Imagine a large scale Betaray installation in a place where people really do not have access to energy… Helping these regions to get clean energy, that’s what I envision.

If someone else could solve that problem in a better way, I know I have the knowledge and passion to help… And for the people who fell in love with the Betaray because of its looks… Wait and see, we will soon release new features that will make people even more excited.

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