Making solar panels more efficient
Terence Ong is a serial entrepreneur. For more than a decade, he dabbled in numerous businesses – from anti-ageing skin creams to producing CD-ROMs.
Now, aged 46, Ong wants to follow the sun. "If you can harness solar power, you can do anything,'' he says. "The sun is available anywhere and everywhere, even in the coldest places on earth. It is the future of energy.''
However, capturing the power of sunshine efficiently can be a challenge. Concentrated sunlight generates intense heat of up to 200° Celsius. This can slow down the conversion of energy in solar panels which operate better under cooler temperatures.
Heat can also wear down the solar panels over time, making them even less efficient. Ong, who trained as an engineer, believes he is on the cusp of a solution.
His Solarite model features a mirror which concentrates sunlight onto a solar panel. This panel has a coating which reflects heat-causing infra-red rays. In addition, a 20mm-thick vacuum chamber between the mirror and the panel acts as a heat buffer.
"Imagine a Thermos flask," explains Ong. "It may contain hot water, but because of the vacuum chamber, you can hold it without feeling the heat."
When Ong filed a patent for his invention in May 2017, his lawyer said the idea was too simple. "But that is precisely the point, I replied. The idea has to be simple enough for it to be truly disruptive. If it is too complicated, it will not succeed.''
His wife, Julie (also pictured), is his business partner and strongest supporter. "She believes in my vision and we know how to keep our work and private lives separate.
"At work, we have placed our desks five metres apart from each other. This ensures both of us have cool heads should we march over to discuss a business matter.''
Ong says that Solarite can increase the efficiency of electricity conversion by 15% and costs 25% less than conventional solar panels. He believes it leaves him well-placed to turn a profit quickly.
"I have been starting up businesses for the last 15 years so I have done many cost and feasibility studies. There is no reason why Solarite will not take off. It is a calculated risk, but one with a strong chance of success.''