Update: MegaCell boards smart urbanization joint venture


Franco Traverso’s Italian startup MegaCell Engineering is partnering with Belgian renewable energy investment boutique Groupmec and Swiss wireless sensor network and monitoring systems specialist Ovóla on a new joint venture aimed at smart urbanization development in developing countries.

Dubbed Urbeco, the ambitious project has set as its goal the development of an integrated system of energy, housing and automation technology featuring cost, environmental and energy efficiency for developing countries, particularly Africa and the Middle East.

Speaking to pv magazine, Traverso said the joint venture partners would fund the endeavor themselves.

"The three companies are financing the joint venture with their own resources, all without external funding," Traverso said. "In fact, the joint venture was set up to stimulate and jointly enjoy the opportunities offered by the global market in this field. The joint venture designs and develops projects that are then carried out for clients, such as governments and public institutions but also private companies that have needs related to urbanization (e.g. oil companies building housing for their professionals in isolated oil spilling areas)."

According to MegaCell Engineering – an affiliate of PV cell manufacturer MegaCell that specializes in smart energy system design and implementation — the venture aims to develop and carry out highly sustainable urbanization with the following integrated aspects:

  • Smart construction: A smart and versatile building system based on steel light structures that are resistant, eco-friendly, economical and quick to install – carried out by Groupmec, operating through its affiliated company Fereco, which specializes in steel framing for construction.
  • Smart energy production (grid connected or off grid): An energy production and distribution system that considerably reduces kilowatt hour costs thanks to a PV plant made of cutting-edge BiSoN bifacial modules and supported by a diesel generator in case of exceeding energy demand or lack of sunlight – carried out by MegaCell Engineering.
  • Smart city applications: Ovóla will oversee the installation of a wireless telecommunication network that will provide coverage to the whole area and allow real-time check and management of indoor and outdoor home energy consumption data and of all safety and alarm systems.

The companies see Urbeco as an opportunity for social prevention and to avoid the depopulation of rural areas in favor of overcrowded urban centers by helping people remain in their native residential areas.

"This project treasures not only the technological innovations that are the competence of the three innovative company members of the consortium, but also the previous direct experience of Franco Traverso, CEO of MegaCell Engineering, who in the late 1980s carried out PV electrification plant installations in isolated villages in the Zanzibar Archipelago of Tanzania," the companies said in a statement.

The partners added that while the technological offer is much different today, the basic principle remains the same: "Make the best use of natural resources, especially the sun, and of new construction and management technologies serving local populations."