Donald Müller-Judex is engineer and founder of two software start-ups. What started as an initial idea in 2009 five years later became his third start-up: Solmove. Its mission consists in rolling out PV modules – similar to a carpet – onto streets and this way generating sustainable energy. The solar powered streets are made of 50 percent glass which can be recycled. Toxic or rare substances are not used in the production. This year, the Munich based start-up is facing an international jury of waste industry experts at the Green Alley Award 2017, a European business competition for ideas related to the circular economy.
In the following interview, founder Donald gives insight into the origin of Solmove, the motivation behind it as well as the team
Donald, in the past you’ve already built and led two start-ups. What inspired you to start once again and how did you come up with the idea?
Many people live unhappily or get sick because they don’t seem to find their true nature and don’t live according to their talents. I‘ve found mine. I’m an innovator who’s contributing new input to social communities. Whenever I have an idea, I want to put it into practice. I‘ve done this with many small ideas and with a few big ones. The development of solar streets is the biggest idea as of now. It both intrigued and motivated me to set up a company once more – against all reason. The team as it exists today is formed of people who are highly enthusiastic about the topic and our project, just like me.
The actual idea to develop solar streets came up in 2009 while I was in the Allgäu Alps for a cycling tour. I was looking for a suitable roof area to rent in order to run a PV system on it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything suitable – all rooftops that came into question have already been equipped with a photovoltaic system. So I asked myself, why not use roads, sidewalks, public places or bicycle lanes for energy production? After all, this is where the sun shines on, too, all day long. That’s how the initial idea emerged.
You started with your idea back in 2014. Why is the solar street not yet suitable for the masses?
It’s been 100 years that roads are being made from concrete. With our solution, roads are going to be multifunctional. Solmove can’t change this from one day to the next, those kinds of processes take time. Developing a completely new road concept is by itself a complex matter. And in the end there’re numerous people from politics, institutions and construction companies who will decide on the implementation. This will take quite some time in a country like Germany, where we face lots of regulatory requirements and critics.
We will probably proceed faster in China. Together with the Chinese Research Institute of Highways (RIOH) and other partners Solmove works on the implementation of a test route in Beijing. In a follow-up project a 190 km-long highway built for the Winter Olympics in 2022 will be equipped with Solmove modules. Autonomous and inductively charged busses are going to be used to drive up to the Olympic village located in the mountains.
Will solar streets be the future standard and if yes, why so?
If 10-20 percent of all roads got a solar coating, then the existing potential would be well exploited. Apart from that, the horizontal modules are ideal for being installed on bike lanes, sidewalks and huge surfaces such as exhibition areas. Here, too, is a high potential for the production of clean electricity – one that is not made use of.
In general, there’s a huge potential of cost reduction for the communities that finance the construction of solar streets. Within 25 years, conventional streets cost up to 25 EUR per square meter – solar streets on the other hand generate money in the same period (about 250 EUR per square meter after deducting building costs and maintenance.)
The ecological amortization is reached within three years, the economical one after 12 to 14 years. The construction of Solmove plants is therefore a solid and long-term investment. Basically, there’s a demand for solar streets wherever electricity is needed and the sun is shining. Our solar streets can furthermore combine additional functions such as street lighting and noise reduction and therefore offer financial advantages.
Have your products “SOLWALK” or “VOLTSTREET” already been implemented somewhere and if so, where?
We continuously work on the optimization of our technology. We are developing two products. The bigger VOLTSTREET™ module (fits ideally on streets and big surfaces). The square modules are 1.2 x 1.2 m in size, are easily combined by a plug-in system and are either connected to the power grid or directly plugged into the user’s grid.
SOLWALK is a sidewalk module sized 60 x 60 cm – ideal for sidewalks, bike lanes and open spaces. SOLWALK is trafficable, and can optionally be lighted as well as heated. We will build the first plants in 2018 in Erfstadt near Cologne (100 m bike lane). Further test areas are planned in Berlin, which will not only produce solar energy but also inductively transmit energy to e-cars.
Have there already been potential investors approaching you?
In 2016, Solmove received a kickoff financing in Brandenburg. In the same year, business angels bought shares of our company. An invested one more in a second round of funding in 2017. Big investors have shown their interest already but first of all need proof that the idea is working. We’ll soon be at that point.
How do you aim to raise the 1 Million euros that are necessary for the production start in Germany?
With the help of an investor who is willing to contribute in setting up the production facility. Discussions are starting right now.
More information you will find here
Thank you Donald Müller-Judex for the Interview
Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.