Nexus-trained Inoviea has patented the technology for a waterless, self-cleaning system for solar panels, which can help boost power generation.
Suchin Jain is an innovator and entrepreneur passionate about creating value and generating opportunities for sustainability and growth through innovation. An alumnus of Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT), Indian Institute of Technology Delhi and Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, he is an ex-Indian Navy officer and a naval architect.
Jain wanted to utilize his expertise in technology to provide high-tech solutions and innovations, and hence launched Inoviea. The company, incubated at the Nexus start-up hub at the American Center New Delhi, invests in new technologies that can solve problems related to sectors like information technology, logistics, the marine sector, real estate and solar energy.
Inoviea has been working on solar power solutions since 2015. The Noida-based company recently patented the technology for a waterless, self-cleaning system for solar panels.
Excerpts from an interview with Jain.
Was it your dream to start your own venture?
Since my childhood, I dreamed of becoming an inventor. My idol was Thomas Alva Edison. I joined the Indian Navy, became a naval architect and got an opportunity to work on the structural design and analysis of an aircraft carrier.
Later, while toying with many innovative ideas, I realized that only those ideas were worth pursuing that had the potential to get implemented. I got an opportunity to do that as an entrepreneur at Inoviea, from where our patented technology for i-PanelKlean nA2, a self-cleaning system for solar panels, emerged.
What role can renewable energy technologies play in the future?
Carbon emission is greatly affecting the planet. Since fusion technology is at least 25 to 50 years away, the world can meanwhile do wonders by switching to renewable energy. Solar power plants are designed to last about 25 years, and today, maximum innovation is happening in the solar power sector, among renewable energy solutions. Clean technology, electric vehicles and renewable energy technologies are the future and have the combined potential to save the planet from climate change.
Why is the i-PanelKlean nA2 technology important?
According to a research paper, solar rooftop plants in India are losing almost 50 percent of power generation due to dust, resulting in hotspots which reduce the lifespan of the panels. Water is a scarce resource and also degrades solar panels, entailing extra cost. The use of a brush for cleaning results in aberrations too. Besides, rooftop workers run the risk of losing life due to high voltage DC [direct current] and even falling from solar rooftops. As per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 100 to 150 deaths every year by falling from solar rooftops in the U.S. alone.
However, our solution is fully automatic, programmable, waterless and doesn’t have any moving parts on solar panels. It has been granted patent by the Indian Patent Office. I have also applied for a U.S. patent.
How did the idea for this technology come about?
I wish it was a eureka moment for me. But, in reality, it was a result of keen observation, constant searching for solutions, combined with experimentation spanning a long period of time. Low power generation of rooftop solar power plants, restricted rooftop spaces, plight of rooftop workers who worked for the installation of these plants and their cleaning under extremely risky circumstances got me thinking about finding a viable solution.
What is the potential use of this technology?
India presently has approximately 4 GW of solar rooftop installations. Most solar rooftops are installed in commercial, industrial, residential areas or government buildings. They are highly dust-prone. Many solar rooftop plants installed by even multinational companies under maintenance contracts are generating low power.
This technology has per GW [gigawatt] per annum potential to generate extra power worth $80 million, save one billion liters of water, reduce carbon emissions by about 600,000 tons. Also, we have solar rooftop installed capacity of 100 GW the world over.
What was your experience being a part of the Nexus training?
I greatly value my selection in 2019 as part of the program. It was a two-month classroom course in innovation and technology commercialization, conducted in collaboration with ACIR (Alliance for Commercialization and Innovation Research). It was a great learning experience that fine-tuned my understanding of the start-up process. The Nexus team was amazing, which would go the extra mile to find answers to your queries, guide you and support the start-up journey.
My biggest takeaways were to stay focused, visualize, plan and act. Market validation, pitching, funding and sales processes have been inspiring and gave me renewed focus to continue building on my passion for innovation with the i-PanelKlean nA2.
In what ways has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your work?
COVID-19 has, in fact, accelerated the adoption of solar rooftop power plants because of cost reduction strategies by most users in the commercial and industrial segments. Our product is completely made-in-India, hence we do not have to rely on any imports.
Ranjita Biswas is a Kolkata-based journalist. She also translates fiction and writes short stories.