SOAS University of London

Solar SOAS impress judges at the Mayor’s Low Carbon Entrepreneur Awards

19 March 2015

Solar SOAS, a green energy project made up of SOAS students and alumni, outperformed 150 other applicants to reach the final of the Mayor of London’s Low Carbon Entrepreneur Awards at City Hall on Friday 13 March.

Solar SOAS mayor competition
The team outside City Hall

The team, born out of discussions by the School’s Energy and Climate Justice Society, battled it out against nine other finalists vying to win £20,000 for their green business idea.

In the ‘Dragon’s Den’ style event, the team had five minutes to pitch their idea to become the first university in the country to install community-owned solar panels on the rooftops of their institution. The group was grilled by a celebrity studded judging panel that included Olympic sailor Dame Ellen McArthur DBE and Innocent smoothie co-founder Richard Reed.

While the group made a convincing pitch and impressed the judges with the community and environmental aims of Solar SOAS, they lost out to a recent graduate from Brunel University. The winning product, Bump Mark, is an innovative gelatine-based technological solution that indicates when food is going off. If successful, the product could make expiry dates unnecessary and reduce the 700m tonnes of food that Britain throws away each year.

But the Solar SOAS team are not fazed by Friday’s defeat, and instead see the experience as a step forward:

“We outbid over 150 entrants from universities across London to reach the final, which is quite an achievement, especially since  we don’t come from engineering and technology backgrounds,” said Charlotte Klinting, a 3rd year student of Law and Development Studies and one of the pitchers at the event.

“The judges seemed to really like the community aspect of our project,” said Robert Van Maaren, SOAS alumnus and co-leader of the Solar SOAS project. “We’re planning a model that will allow the SOAS community both to invest and to help run the project,” he said.

SOAS generates almost 85 per cent of its heat and power on-site.  Solar SOAS aims to supplement that by producing 65Kwp of clean energy, potentially reducing the School’s carbon footprint by approximately 30 tonnes. The cheaper, cleaner energy produced can either be used by the School or sold to the National Grid. The project will also serve as a pilot that other universities and institutions can follow, amplifying the potential impact.

The project has already received support from the Students’ Union and hopes to continue gaining further support from the students as well as the School’s Governing Body.

The Solar SOAS team:

• Robert Van Maaren (MSc, GECP 2013)
• Domenica Lewis (MA, CISD 2013)
• Isobel Annan (BA Chinese Modern and Classical)
• Charlotte Klinting (BA Development Studies and Law)
• Hannah Short (BA Chinese and Development Studies)
• Clare Birkett (MSc Environmental Politics and Development)
• Gintare Daunoraviciute (BA Chinese and Development Studies)

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