With a coating technology that gives an edge to the solar industry, XeroCoat has signed a distribution deal with Hitachi for Japan and China, adding to its expansion into the US. It has come a long way from its roots as a UniQuest (UQ) start-up, as CEO Tom Hood explains.
Can you put into layman’s terms the technology that XeroCoat has and what it means to the solar power industry?
XeroCoat’s anti-reflective coating technology is a unique way to manufacture a low-cost, durable, and high-performance coating that meets the needs of the solar industry, reducing the amount of useable solar energy because they reflect some percentage of the available sunlight.
This improves the efficiency and therefore the viability of most solar technologies. In 2009 the global installed power of solar photovoltaics was around 6.5 billion watts, but had they all used XeroCoat’s coating this would have translated to an additional 195 million – that’s enough to power an extra 40,000 homes.
How did this technology come about?
It was discovered by Dr Michael Harvey and Professor Paul Meredith at the University of Queensland between 2003 and 2005, with an investment proposition made by UniQuest. From a variety of investment partners US$1.7 million was raised, with $12.5 million invested in later rounds.
Having launched in the US, what is the potential market for your product worldwide?
We see a market for anti-reflective coatings in solar amounting to several hundred million US dollars by the middle of this decade.
What does the deal with Hitachi mean for XeroCoat?
Hitachi High-Technologies brings to XeroCoat immediate credibility in the marketplace. A company like Hitachi only enters into these kinds of partnerships after doing considerable due diligence, but we met their demanding criteria which says a lot about XeroCoat’s potential. Solar markets are global and it’s very difficult for a small company like XeroCoat to address the markets worldwide, but Hitachi’s global footprint is substantial.
What has been the biggest challenge to date?
Climbing the credibility ladder with prospective customers. They asked questions like ‘does it actually work and what proof will you have that it lasts 25 years when exposed to the elements?’ Once we got through those hurdles we had to show customers large panels of coated glass to convince them that the product looked good when applied in full scale.
What’s tougher, invention or innovation?
To some degree the invention part of a new product, though essential, is the easy part, while innovation involves taking this invention through to the market. Taking a new technology or product into the ‘gauntlet’ of the commercial world is what takes years of effort and is fraught with challenges, uncertainty and hard work. Dr Harvey and Prof Meredith have without a doubt discovered a very interesting and unique process for making these materials, but now it’s up to hundreds to get it to the market.
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