This is part of a series of articles that looks at entrepreneurs hoping to get their ideas off the ground through crowdfunding. At the time of writing, each of these innovations is currently seeking funding.
The solar energy industry is still in the process of exploring how to make photovoltaic panels more efficient and less intrusive, and researchers at Stanford have already pushed forward with peel-and-stick solar panels. However, for high power usage the devices must be large and in direct contact with the sun at all times, meaning they need to track its position in the sky using sensors and equipment that are expensive and susceptible to bad weather. Currently seeking funding through Indiegogo, Rawlemon is an alternative in the shape of an oddly beautiful eyeball-shaped lens, that uses refraction to concentrate sunlight with minimal need for tracking.
Designed by German architect Andre Broessel, the invention uses a large glass sphere lens, which collects diffuse light from multiple angles. The shape of the lens focuses this light into a fine beam — much like a magnifying glass — that can deliver a greater amount of sunlight — around 70 percent more — than traditional photovoltaic panels can collect on their own, even when they track the sun. The system enables Broessel to reduce the size of the solar panel to around one percent of the typical PV device. At the same time, the Rawlemon product is arguably much more aesthetically pleasing than the gray, oblong panels currently in use.
The project is running an Indiegogo campaign until 1 March, where backers can pledge to have Rawlemon’s Beta.ey XL device installed in their homes for USD 6,000. Those whose pockets aren’t quite as deep can still trial the concept through the Beta.ey Special Edition for USD 489, a miniaturized version of the device that can charge users’ phones — a product in its own right. If the price can be brought down further, could Rawlemon even replace the solar panel?