Impact-Journalism

New solar-powered motor needs no maintenance, never breaks down

2016-06-25 07:22

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A durable solar-powered motor, which requires no maintenance, could be a game-changing development in the struggle to acquire basic necessities, such as water, in remote areas of developing countries. 

Solar panel installations in poor and remote communities are often abandoned after only a few months of use due to breakdowns and a lack of available spare parts.

However, with Saurea, an autonomous and durable solar-powered motor that requires no maintenance and can directly convert solar energy into kinetic energy, that daily waste of resources could become a problem of the past. 

Saurea’s 76-year-old inventor, Alain Coty, never imagined his motor could be used in the development sector. Coty, an electrical engineer, who previously worked in aeronautics, had for years dreamt of developing a durable solar-powered motor. He considered the task to be nothing more than a “technical challenge”. 

With encouragement from Claire Balavoine, president of the Daniel Balavoine Association, a non-governmental organisation that works on development projects in Mali, he was able to make his dream a reality. “I wasn’t sure what I could do with the motor, and she made me realise it might interest non-governmental organisations.” 

In 2008 Coty completed the first prototype of Saurea. Though similar motors already existed, they were far less powerful. Saurea’s unique durability and power come from wiring the motor to an exterior solar panel, which is constantly exposed to light and providing electricity to the motor’s electromagnetic coils. 

As a result of this innovation Saurea, unlike other solar powered motors, has no parts that are susceptible to wear, making the motor’s life span the same as that of its solar panels – between 25 and 30 years. 

“I had never realised this was innovative,” Coty modestly admits, despite the fact that the invention has five separate patents on it. 

Since the initial prototype, Saurea’s potential has inspired others to join Coty’s team and aid in its development. 

Nadège Payet-Tisset, who had years of experience exporting renewable energy installations to disadvantaged communities in Africa, immediately noticed the potential of Coty’s motor. 

Payet-Tisset saw it on display at the “Salon des Solidarités” development fair and decided to become chief executive of Saurea as a result. The associate general director of production, Gregory Deren, encountered Coty when he attended a presentation by the solar panel manufacturer where Deren previously worked. 

The team also receives scientific consultations from two researchers at the Laboratory of Systems and Applications of Information and Energy Technologies at France’s National Centre for Scientific Research. 

The most recent model of Saurea will be released as a pilot series of 100 motors. The motors will be installed in remote and sunny locations (Africa, Australia, Latin America and Asia), by regular citizens, so as to convince users of its practicality and ease of use. 

An initial pilot test of Saurea will take place in Mali with the help of a partner organisation, Geres. The pilot test aims to provide a community of women with a motor designed to pump water for irrigating crops. The motor will be capable of pumping 14 cubic metres of water per day from eight metres below the ground, which will then be released at three metres below the ground, over a hectare of agricultural land by a drop-by-drop irrigation system. The pump will also provide drinking water for up to 600 people. However, Nadège Payet-Tisset insists that “the motor could be far more powerful” but that “it’s important to start small”. 

Saurea also has a variety of other potential applications: Ventilation of both housing and food stores, refrigeration for vaccines and medicine, aeronautical applications, the oxygenation of fish farms, water filtration and for use in agricultural machinery. 

Saurea could potentially be the starting point for the development of new technologies. The motor has been the subject of interest for use as a tool in education, for the irrigation of community gardens in France and an artist has even expressed interest in using Saurea for a performance. 

A surge of generosity 

Housed at the Seinari business incubator in Rouen and personally financed by Coty as well as with support from the French region of Normandy and the Banque Publique d’Investissement (€40 000 from each), Saurea has already received multiple awards. 

The appeal of Saurea’s project has resulted in more than 400 requests globally for information about the project as well as requests to establish partnerships. 

Certain materials are being provided free of charge to Saurea. One woman even offered to donate €20 000 of her own savings. However, still in its fundraising phase, Saurea is primarily seeking investors and support from industry partners.

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