Making an Impact – SolarisKit

Faisal Ghani, inventor of the SolarisKit collector and winner of the 2019 Converge Impact Challenge, is a man with a mission. We caught up with him at the Converge 2020 Awards to see what’s been happening in the business over the last 12 months.

Q: Tell us more about SolarisKit and how the technology is improving lives in third world communities?

A: SolarisKit is a flat-packable solar thermal collector and a device which is quickly and easily assembled – much like an Ikea product.  When it’s assembled it can convert sunlight directly into hot water.  I founded SolarisKit because I found out that many households in Africa were spending a very large proportion of their income paying for their energy bill and a large portion of that was just going to heat water.  It didn’t really make much sense to me because they obviously have access to tremendous amounts of solar energy that could quite easily be harnessed to meet that demand and to relieve that financial burden but also helping to lower carbon emissions.

Q: I’m guessing there have been highs and lows over the last 12 months – how do you keep going when times are tough?

Well, it absolutely has been tough, definitely this year, but what’s kept us going is that we have a very, very strong mission.  We really believe in the problem that we’re solving and the impact that our solution can make. It’s been quite a rollercoaster and during those really low times, I think a really strong reason and purpose has kept us going.  I definitely recommend that all entrepreneurs should remember that because the lows will always come.  They should always remember what their reason was for starting in the first place.

Q: You’re obviously someone with strong environmental credentials – how much of an impact could the technology make in terms of carbon reductions?  

I think for a lot of people, when they think of the transition to the green economy, it’s natural to think how we can decarbonise electricity and there’s also been lots of talk about electric vehicles and how we decarbonise transportation.  However, there’s this other really big slice of the carbon emissions pie which often gets overlooked and that’s heat. Half our of energy is actually consumed to meet heating demands and most of that is still being met using fossil fuels.

Also a lot of people don’t realise that carbon emissions from developing countries actually exceed those produced from industrialised nations.  So while we’re developing a number of solutions it’s really important that we develop solutions that are affordable, practical and widely scalable – not just for industrialised regions but for developing economies too.  If we don’t do that, we’re not really going to make a significant impact in tackling the climate emergency.

So we’ve worked out that one of our solar collectors when it’s installed in Africa will save around 300kg of carbon emissions every single year and the collector should last for 10-20 years.  But obviously we’re looking at installing potentially millions of the collectors so we’re hoping to make a big dent in carbon emissions.