Solar collectors that produce heat AND electricity? A franchise shop for solar panels? Nothing is too innovative for Turkish solar pioneer Solimpeks Solar Energy Corporation from Konya, a major city in Turkey’s largest region. Now the company has opened an office in Munich, where it has already established close ties with Bavarian component builders. The CleanEnergy Project spoke with Hüseyn Gökalp, Director of Business Development of the sprawling family business.
Your company looks back at three generations of experience. Please tell us about the history of Solimpeks.
In 1973, Halil Ibrahim Dag (our grandfather) produced the first solar thermal collector in Turkey. The company eventually became market leader, using the position of being first in the era of sons. The well-educated third generation accelerated the growth and carried the competition outside of Turkey.
Now the company is the fifth biggest consumer of selective coated copper production from Germany, which is an essential material for collector production. Presently, the company has a presence in 60 countries and holds 18 quality certificates.
Solimpeks offers a broad range of products. Which do you think will become most important in the next 3-5 years?
High-efficiency solar thermal collectors will be in demand again, but hybrid collectors will also gain a good position in the market.
Hybrid solar modules mark a new path in the evolution of the solar market. When did your company start developing this technology? What made you take interest in the first place?
We started R&D on the hybrid panels four years ago and introduced it to the market in 2009. Our customers kept asking for a solution to gain electricity and hot water simultaneously from the same panel, due to limited roof areas. In addition, the photovoltaic cells had an efficiency problem, losing 0,3% of the heat for every + 1 °C rise in temperature. We solved the two problems with hybrid panels by cooling down the cells through water circulation.
Some people say that the hybrid panels only work well in Southern countries where there is a lot of direct sun light. Can you confirm this? What potential do these modules have for the German market?
We offer two models that can be employed according to different demands: We focus on producing hot water in the North and electricity in the South of Europe. At this point, the UK and Germany are our primary markets.
Please tell us more about the Solar Energy Shop concept. What type of products do you plan to sell to the end user in the online store?
Solar heating, cooling, electricity and natural lighting equipment will be sold both in our solar shops and our online store.
How did this idea evolve?
We developed this idea two years ago, because there was a gap between end-users of solar power and the producers of solar panels. At that point, the sellers in Turkey did not explain the product well. For this reason, we developed the idea for a new sales channel that would ensure high quality of product with perfect after-sales support. The idea is to keep project engineers under the solar shop umbrella in order to serve our customers in a professional way. The first solar shop is hosted in a passive energy house, which is a unique way to introduce the solar energy products in a fascinating setting. We are envisioning a one-year testing period after which 20 solar shops will follow, with the ultimate goal of exporting this idea to Europe.
Germany’s South-East played a major role in starting the once tiny German solar revolution. Now, Bavaria is increasingly turning into a hub for solar businesses from other nations, thanks to an excellent R&D infrastructure and its role as turntable for the international solar market. Further information about the region is provided by Invest in Bavaria, the official business promotion agency of the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs.