SOLAR panel inventor Paul Laidler is talking to potential investors in a bid to get his product on to the market.
Laidler has nearly three decades of experience in sectors including engineering, aerospace and printing. His idea was to develop a type of solar panel that generates heat from the sun as well as electricity, but he needed assistance to make it a viable business.
The Ponteland-based director of Northern Technology Developments made progress after attending workshops run by North East Access to Finance (NEA2F) and Newcastle Science City, which look at elements such as pitching technique and commercial advice. He has since been contacted by several people offering support.
Laidler said: “There’s a lot of opportunities in the North East in the renewable energy. The aim is to have a product that will be conceived, designed and built in the North East. It’s in the proof of concept stage now, but the hope is that in 12 months there will be a North East product that works.”
The design features a standard solar PV panel on the front, and a patented panel at the back which captures and transfers the heat for use. Laidler has acquired a patent on this back element, and said the product is a more “efficient” way of generating power and heat from the sun.
He said: “As a panel gets hotter, its energy efficiency can fall by up to 30%. I’ve designed something which takes the heat away. I just had a eureka moment, and made up some simple stuff in my kitchen.
“I’ve been involved in manufacturing for the last 30 years or so now, but my technical background is in materials science. The whole purpose of the panel is to give you both heat and electricity efficiently.”
The solar industry will be hit by a cut in the feed-in tariff this month, but Laidler said it will merely be “a blip” in the rise of the sector.
He said: “There’s a lot of political and commercial posturing at the moment. I think there will be a slight blip in the short term but the market will just grow and grow in the long term.”
NEA2F project director Alan Holmes said the next series of workshops for businesses looking for a similar boost will take place from February 24 next year, and that the organisation is sourcing experienced speakers for the 2012 run.
He said: “What young and growing businesses need is practical advice and guidance from people who know what they are talking about, because they’ve been there and done it.”