One sun collector every six minutes means a ranking as world leader
With a worldwide sphere of activity, the Absolicon company from Härnösand has moved into a top position with an invention that concentrates sunlight and generates steam and heat up to 160 degrees. The business idea is to sell robotic production lines that can mass produce the concentrating solar collectors. The robots produce one solar collector every six minutes.
Hear CEO Jakob Byström explain Absolicon's business (2.25 min)
Joakim Byström, CEO and founder of Absolicon Solar Collector AB, has always had a strong interest in mathematics and physics. As a 12-year-old he discovered that the equation y=x*x could be used to produce a solar collector and, together with his handicraft teacher, he designed his first solar collector, one that focuses the light.
His engagement in solar energy continued unabated, and with an increased commitment to environmental issues he undertook an ambitious project in 2002 based on earlier Swedish research that proved it possible to build a solar collector capable of radically reducing the cost of solar energy.
– Solar heat at high temperatures can heat industrial processes and thereby replace fossil fuels. Solar collectors can generate both heat and solar cooling in district heating networks and for large buildings”, says Joakim Byström.
Absolicon has chosen to work with concentrating solar collectors. As the name suggests, the sunlight is concentrated in a structure resembling an elongated trough that follows the sun during the day.
The latest model of solar collector, the T160, has recently been certified with the solar heating industry’s Solar Keymark quality stamp. It is designed for solar heating and to have the capacity to supply steam at temperatures of up to 160 degrees for industrial processes. By comparison to traditional flat solar collectors for district heating, the T160 solar collector supplies 50 per cent more energy per year.
Support from the Swedish Energy Agency gave an international boost
The Swedish Energy Agency recognised that the solar collectors had great potential in an international market and Absolicon was one of the first companies to be granted a conditional loan. The loan was worth SEK 4 million and was due for repayment once the business turned a profit. Since then, the Swedish Energy Agency has provided several rounds of financial support to Absolicon for its research and development activities. For Jörgen Sjödin, administrator at the Swedish Energy Agency, Joakim Byström is a familiar figure.
– Joakim Byström is a true entrepreneur and has been involved in several research projects and calls for proposals. In total, they have received research support on six occasions during the period from 2011 to 2018, says Jörgen.
For 10 years the solar collectors were produced by hand in Härnösand but in 2016 Absolicon signed an SEK 25 million agreement with a Chinese consortium in the Sichuan province to supply a robotic production line. The line produces one solar collector every six minutes, which means that the production of solar collectors can amount to 100 000 square metres per year.
– We have already signed a framework agreement to establish two more production lines, one in South Africa and one in Kenya. Each production line costs around 4 million euros, and in countries such as South Africa or Kenya, the pay-back period is two years, says Joakim Byström.
When investors are interested in purchasing a production line, Absolicon invites them to its display facility in Härnösand.
– We demonstrate the entire robotic production line and our solar collectors. We can demonstrate how to heat industrial processes in dairies, breweries and textile production, for example. What many people are unaware of is that the demands of the textile industry consist of 15 per cent electricity and 85 per cent heat, and in a dairy, 30 per cent electricity and 70 per cent heat, and they are currently generating the heat for their processes by burning coal, oil or gas. But if the world’s industries want to convert to zero net emissions of carbon dioxide their heat will need to be supplied by solar collectors, says Joakim Byström.
But in multinational companies, things are already starting to happen, says Joakim Byström:
– In 30 years time, Earth’s population will be 10 billion and the middle class will have increased from one billion people to four billion. This means that four times as many jackets will need to be produced, four times as many sofas, and four times as much shampoo. At the same time, manufacturing must not generate any carbon dioxide. Big names among multinational companies such as Carlsberg, Unilever, HM and IKEA have decided that all manufacturing will be carried out with zero net emissions of carbon dioxide by 2030. A major transition is needed to meet this climate goal.