Robert Edwards is the Chief Executive at Solar Polar, an award-winning renewable energy design company using solar energy to power refrigeration and air conditioning units.
As a constant renewable resource, Solar Polar are using the power of the sun to help solve problems associated with global warming, from keeping cool in cities, to reducing disease in developing countries and reducing the amount of food waste.
Tell us, in 20 words or fewer, about Solar Polar – what’s your mission?
Our technology harvests the energy of the sun to reduce the carbon footprint of cooling, bringing renewable refrigeration and air conditioning to the developing as well as the developed world.
What drives you?
If you look at the problems and the injustices that the world is facing, it can be overwhelming and lead to inaction. By identifying an area where you can help and concentrating on that, you can make a difference and that’s what drives me; I want Solar Polar to make a difference.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
Until this project I’d say my PhD, as I left school with no qualifications and started my undergraduate degree in my 30’s, when I was diagnosed as dyslexic. But, Solar Polar is now my greatest achievement. We will have our products on the ground in India this summer and are starting to see real impacts.
What are the challenges you face?
As with any new technology, it’s bridging the gap between demonstration and commercialisation, when investors commit – the so-called Valley of Death – which is further hindered by the political backdrop. Neither the UK nor the US is supportive of renewables. Setting up our equipment in India for the first time this summer is proving challenging but exciting.
What are you working on that’s getting you fired up and excited?
Collaborating with organisations to develop and improve existing technologies in a unique way, bringing people close to living sustainably and off grid.
Where do you want to take Solar Polar next?
After India, we’re aiming for field trails in Mexico. After this, the long-term goal is to license the manufacture internationally so that our units can be installed on houses to provide electricity-free cooling for residents across the world. We also want our technology to help beyond the domestic sphere: refrigeration can be used for vaccines and preserving crops, increasing food security and preserving crop yields by as much as 50%.
What can we, as individuals, do to make a difference?
Identify where you can make a difference and work at that, it is the small things that collectively if we all do can make a difference: walk don’t drive, recycle, buy your energy from a green supplier. Don’t be put off action by the overwhelming big picture.
How is what you are doing inspiring change in others?
The governments in the UK and India are starting to take notice. The Department for International Development have funded our field trials in India and the Indian Government is taking us to meet people working in the industry in India.
Can you recommend a life- or game-changing book for our readers?
Sustainability Without the Hot Air by David MacKay puts sensible numbers to the scale of the energy problems we’re facing. The Road Less Travelled by Dr M. Scott Peck explains how to confront and solve problems.
What do you listen to when you’re cooking dinner?
Radio 4’s comedy programmes.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
You are the result of the people that you spend the most time with, so surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. I’d add to this people who are upbeat (nothing worse than a pessimist in a small team) and young people so you can see the latest trends that are coming.
Can you leave us with who’d be your Eco Hero?
Bill McDonough, author of Cradle to Cradle. I had the honour of working with Bill for six months learning his design philosophy.
Greenhouse PR supports cleantech entrepreneurs and small businesses such as Climate Action with the Sustainable Innovation Forum at COP21 and the launch of the revolutionary Rasa hydrogen car for Riversimple. We’re always interested to hear about new cleantech and innovative projects coming up, so if you’re a company looking for PR support please do get in touch.