Dr.Nick KanopoulosPresident & CEO
Dr.Nick Kanopoulos President & CEO, Brite Solar
Brite Solar is a nanomaterials company utilizing innovative materials and deposition techniques to deliver a new class of glass materials.
Climate change can be overwhelming. The science is complex, and when it comes to future impacts, there are still a lot of unknowns. While real solutions require action on a global scale, there are choices we can make in our day-to-day life to lessen our personal impact on the environment.
Brite Solar Technologies is strongly committed to providing solutions that will contribute to the world’s efforts to support sustainable food supply with minimal environmental impact for the projected world population increase to 9.7B people by 2050. Given that agriculture consumes 14% of energy and 70% of water globally today, it is clear that conventional cultivation means are not sustainable in meeting production increase requirements by 70-100% by 2050. Greenhouse farming is a solution because it delivers 10 times the crop yield, using 10 times less water, while using 10 times more energy. Brite’s mission is to develop technology that delivers solar energy to this sector almost at 100%, thus neutralizing its impact on environmental change.
Nick Kanopoulos is the founder and CEO of Brite Solar and a technologist at heart, with extensive however, experience in forming, managing and leading large and diverse organizations. His tenacity and perseverance to deliver a viable product amid the hugely adverse business environment in Greece at the on-set of the financial crisis for the country is a characteristic feature of his make-up as a leader of highly educated and talented people.
According to Nick, in business there are many factors that can affect an outcome and they are not in the control of a leader. Anticipation of these factors is important of course but not always feasible. “As a general direction, I would recommend that one must have a market-driven and not a technology-driven approach for a start-up (solve a problem that exists; don’t develop a technology first and then search for a problem to solve), where the feasibility of a product can be determined in a timely fashion,” says Nick. “Don’t be afraid to fail and if you fail, try to do it fast so that you can try a new thing. Adequate financing from the get-go, especially when your development depends on materials and manufacturing is key, so put a lot of effort in selling the idea to the market before it becomes real. If everything becomes feasible and the market is interested, then persevere.”
Deploying Advanced NanoMaterial Engineering
Brite Solar is deploying advanced nanomaterial engineering to
create new types of glass products and have a positive impact
on worldwide energy consumption to support a growing
world population. The world population is estimated to reach
9.7 billion by 2050 according to forecasts from the United
Nations. This will make the sustainable management of food,
energy and water more critical than ever. To maintain current
levels of nutrition with this population increase, the Food
and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO),
suggests that world food production must increase between
70% — 100% by 2050. The FAO estimates that nearly all
(90%) of this increase in food production must result from
intensified cultivation. In particular, irrigated production must
increase by 65% over the next 30 years while using only 14%
more water. It is evident that a shift to more sustainable and
effective methods of food production is imperative to overcome
the challenges associated with the increasing population while
maintaining a sustainable food supply. Based on these facts,
greenhouse farming can be a solution for these increasing food
demands, due to:
(i) its potential for high productivity with reduced water (up to 10 times less) and agrochemicals use per unit of production;
(ii) its production capacity is up to 10 times higher than open field-based agriculture per hectare, and;
(iii) its high potential for the recycling of water and nutrients.
Although greenhouse farming can significantly reduce the water usage per ton of produced crops, it requires 10 times more energy consumption compared to traditional farming. This causes greenhouses to spend 25% – 28% of their operating costs on energy and the covering glass or plastic is their weakest part in energy losses.
PanePowerTM is an innovative solar glass technology developed by Brite that utilizes a combination of spectrum shifting nanomaterials with monocrystalline silicon solar cells. Contrary to other PV solutions, PanePowerTM is an over 80% transparent solar glass that generates clean energy, reduces energy costs, and, more importantly allows the light to pass through it without affecting photosynthesis, making it ideal for greenhouse applications. This high level of transparency is achieved thanks to a unique combination of Brite-developed nanomaterial coating that concentrates the visible light in the region of photosynthesis by selective UV utilization, which is finally useful for both plants and solar cells. In particular, UV light is successfully absorbed by the coating and is then emitted in the red region of visible light.
strikes the glass
This allows a more efficient sensitization of solar cells and more concentrated light in the Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR) for the plants. “Through testing, we also validated that our glass is uniformly transparent within the entire visible light spectrum,and as such can allow a cost-efficient cultivation of even the most demanding type of crop,” says Nick.
Building the Future
The first pilot deployment of Brite Solar’s product is in a solar greenhouse developed in a vineyard aiming at doubling the crop yield (two crops per year) by controlling the environmental conditions for the vines, while producing almost all the energy required for the greenhouse to operate. This is an ongoing experiment but the results are extremely positive. In fact, they expect to get the second crop harvest in April which will be a first for the European viniculture industry. Brite Solar’s customer had a problem in visualizing the changes in the cultivation plan and schedule because they didn’t think a second harvest was possible. Now they are excited at the developments and progress and the energy cost savings by consuming the energy produced by the greenhouse itself.
Brite Solar’s biggest achievement is that they started up the company at the onset of the financial crisis in Greece and kept making progress in a country that was not an investable destination. Local funding was non-existent and the economy run for years with capital controls. They were able to sustain the financial pressures by engaging their entire staff, who are all shareholders of the company. In addition, despite all the difficulties faced, the company brought the technology to production and filed applications for seven patents to secure their Intellectual Property. Now Brite Solar is on the onset of developing their own pilot production line and have secured the financing needed to move forward. Their approach is to engage the entire staff, by helping them feel they own the company and the technology it develops. “We are a start-up company developing the core technology that our products are based on because this gives us a competitive advantage in the marketplace,” explains Nick. “For our solar glass product, the technology is a spectral shifting coating that absorbs UV radiation and emits visible light.” The advantage that Brite Solar’s technology offers is an increase of 3% in the active photosynthetic radiation absorbed by the plants, and 10% increase in the solar cell efficiency of the glass.
Brite Solar is currently working with the largest winemaker in Greece on an experimental solar greenhouse that has the potential to revolutionalize grape cultivation and winemaking. By controlling the environmental conditions in the greenhouse, Brite Solar is attempting to have two grape harvests within a year, in other words double the yield of the vineyard. “So far, things progress as planned and after the first harvest we had in September, we expect to have the second one in April,” adds Nick. “In the meantime, the energy production of our glass goes as predicted and it adds a lot to the value proposition to our customers. There is a great interest and anticipation for these results, especially in China, and we hope the outcome will greatly benefit our customers.”