French start-up launches solar engine

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From pv magazine France.

Auxerre-based start-up Saurea has unveiled an electric motor technology that converts solar energy directly into mechanical rotation.

The company’s first product provides rotary motion able to draw water for agricultural irrigation and to supply fresh air to ventilate buildings.

“It’s the first solar engine in the world,” said Isabelle Gallet-Coty, one of Saurea’s founders. “It revolves entirely around renewable energy and has the particularity of never breaking down.”

Perpetual motion

Unlike conventional electric motors, Saurea’s technology directly converts solar energy to rotary motion without the need for power conversion components, giving the solar engine unusual resilience.

“Electronic power conversion components often need to be replaced,” said Gallet-Coty. Saurea claims it can guarantee maintenance-free operation of its first product for 20 years.

According to the start-up, that will offer financial savings to customers and make the engine particularly well suited for use in isolated areas. The innovative nature of the product has attracted the attention of the EDF Pulse jury, which selected Saurea as one of the finalists in the Sustainable Territories category of its annual competition – the public vote is open until September 26.

Family start-up

The solar engine is the result of research and development work spanning three generations. Inventor Alain Coty has filed five technology patents during his lifetime. His daughter-in-law Isabelle and his son took the product to market and their daughter, Louise, is in charge of business development.

The family business, officially founded three years ago, assembles the solar engines in a workshop in Burgundy in central France and is establishing a distribution network.

Isabelle Gallet-Coty said the sale price of the solar engine is €2,500-3,500, depending on the application. Saurea also offers to deliver the integrated product to pumps assembled by its partners and the start-up intends to expand its product range.

“Right now we are launching our first 130 W mechanical solar engine for pumping air and water applications,” added Isabelle, “for example, to water green walls or power city foggers [which issue clouds of spray and are widely used to combat mosquitoes]. But it’s our intermediate engine. Currently, two more are developed with powers of 50 W and 250 W.”