5/12/2019 0 Comments
We all know just how ruthless Mother Nature can be. From landslides to thunderstorms, she knows how to make her presence known and worse yet wreak havoc in our daily lives. And if there’s one thing that her presence can guarantee, it’s black outs. We’ve become so dependent on power to do just about anything that it becomes almost impossible to carry on with our day-to-day activities through a power outage. While most of us would just sit back and wait for our power woes to disappear, Trent Small saw differently. When tropical cyclone Yasi hit northern Queensland in 2011, it did so with such intensity that the area was left without power for up to four weeks. While others were picking up the pieces from Cyclone Yasi’s devastation, Small sought to create the Solar Relief portable power supply (PPS) units which relied on solar energy.
“I had the light bulb moment when I was sitting in my house after Cyclone Yasi with no electricity. Looking at my neighbours’ roofs which were full of solar panels [I saw] they could not use the power that they were providing when they needed it the most as the grid was down. This is when I knew that there had to be a solution,” said Small when asked about how the idea came to him.
The Solar Relief PPS units are really one-of-a-kind from their surge protection (ideal for appliances) to their environmentally friendliness.
Other features include:
Garry Scott, Distribution agent for Solar Relief’s Pacific Region, knows this all too well.
“Not using fossils fuels is one of the most important features of the PPS units. Apart from revolutionising life in villages and remotes areas, using solar energy is the way forward with playing a major part in reducing climate change. The idea of not having to rely on fossil fuel generation was the genesis for the invention of the PPS units. We are proud to be involved in a clean technology that will help play its part in reducing climate change,” said Scott.
From its humble beginnings in, Solar Relief PPS units are now being distributed in Papua New Guinea, Fiji and the Solomon Islands. The distribution of PPS units in these areas mean that even rural areas can enjoy the benefits of electricity. So in a way, the PPS aren’t only preparing urban areas for the next disaster but are also empowering rural areas. The PPS units ensure that one doesn’t need to worry about fuel, maintenance, servicing and the noise and air pollution that come with generators.
The introduction of a great invention like the Solar Relief PPS units will see a surge in demand. Scott said that in order to make the product more accessible at the grassroots level, Solar Relief’s also trying to keep prices low.
“[Hence] we are limiting the number of distribution agents and taking our time to select distributors to ensure quality control and ensure protection of our reputation. A lot of our enquiries and orders have come from parties relying on aid money and sales are expected to grow strongly upon different aid funds becoming available. We’re in discussions with village groups with a view to providing them with solar generated power supply to operate activities such as fishing projects by giving them the ability to operate a freezer.”
With green products like the PPS units, you can be sure that power will never be lost. Areas like Taveuni Island in Fiji which was greatly affected by the tropical cyclone Winston will now have access to power.
“We have manufactured PPS units as funds become available through our current Go Fund Me Campaign. Our current focus is on Taveuni Island. [At present] we have two PPS units going over to Fiji purchased through Queensland Master Builders Association (QMBA) to assist victims of Cyclone Winston in Fiji. We are also attending a trade mission in Fiji in April…aimed at assisting Fiji in its Cyclone Winston relief efforts. Solar Relief also has a flat packed, cyclone rated, strong, energy efficient house kits which we are offering to the Fijian Government which can be powered by our Portable Power Supply,” explained Scott.
The innovation of green products like the PPS units allows us to enjoy electricity without hurting the environment. Further, we now have a backup plan in place should Mother Nature decide to strike.
So what does Solar Relief have in mind for the future?
“In the next five years, Solar Relief PPS units will be providing enough power that a single unit will be running a whole house or factory. Take for example computers or mobile phones, when these first came out, they were large and bulky and inefficient. The Solar Relief PPS unit will have increased capacity and efficiency in the future as technology improves and power storage and generation becomes more efficient,” said inventor Small.
In the meantime, seek out Solar Relief PPS units as the portable off-grid power solution.
Cyclone Yasi’s destructive path in 2011 provided an opportunity for Trent Small, an enterprising Townsville businessman, to put his creative thinking and practical skills into action. Solar Relief, is being hailed as an important tool for disaster relief and is set to go world-wide with the assistance of investors.
In February 2011, when tropical Cyclone Yasi wreaked its devastation across the south pacific and made landfall in Townsville Queensland, Trent Small and his family were one of thousands affected by power outages for a number of days.
‘We were all rushing out to get ice and generators to try and save our food,’ recalls Trent. ‘At the same time I kept looking at my neighbour’s roof full of solar panels. It seemed crazy that no-one could access the power they were generating.’
With this challenge in mind, Trent set about solving a problem that has taken him in a life changing direction.
Having been through what he calls the ‘school of hard knocks’ Trent was well prepared for such a challenge. ‘When I left school I started a traineeship with a steel company but I always wanted to start my own business so I also did some Law and Economics at University.’ By age 21 he was self-employed and hasn’t looked back.
When Cyclone Yasi hit, Trent was proprietor of an established business, Absolute Building Supplies, that helped immensely in his new quest to create a portable solar power solution.
Because of the Federal Government’s existing solar scheme, he already had a good understanding of solar technology. ‘I’d already looked into it and educated myself,’ explains Trent who went on to sell a half dozen of the grid systems before deciding that it didn’t meet his vision for a sustainable future. ‘There were too many people and over-inflated prices with a smash and grab mentality,’ he shrugs. ‘I chose to walk away.’
Trent’s vision was now clearly focussed on a portable solar product that could be quickly deployed anywhere in the world at times of natural disaster and crisis.
Almost every week since Yasi Trent continues to see instances where his portable solar power pack could make a difference. At the time of our interview world news was reporting on a power outage at a Uganda Hospital. ‘There were three deaths in three hours,’ recalls Trent. ‘This could be totally preventable.’
A crucial aspect of being portable was the storage of power. He believed the answer was to develop a diverse product that could be charged in a number of different ways using solar and alternators off a car or generator, as well as be used as a UPS unit and off mains power. Even wind power was thrown into the mix.
In true Australian style he started experimenting with a battery box in an eskie, before progressing to custom manufacturing moulds with input provided by the Australian Defence Force and Emergency Services.
The non-reflective solar panels weigh four kilograms and fold down to 580×580 millimetres. The total weight of a patented PPS unit starts at 40 kilograms.
Up until this point Trent has invested his own time and money into the product development while his original business, Absolute Building Supplies, is developing a complimentary product; fully recycled, lego style building materials to provide quick and ready shelter following a disaster.
Once Solar Relief hit the point of commercialisation and ticked all the stringent safety regulation standards, it became a separate company and is currently taking pre-orders. Trent is also seeking investors and talking with potential partners such as the United Nations and Rotary International that can help take the product where it is most needed around the world.
Not only is he passionate about disaster relief, he has a vision for a clean sustainable future for third world countries.
‘I’ve got a product which I now believe is part of the solution to solve world energy poverty,’ he explains. ‘There’s over 2.6 billion who don’t have access to reliable electricity and another 1.3 billion people who don’t have any access to electricity. We can take solar relief anywhere in the world and put down on the ground in a helicopter in any disaster area.’
Powering communication, lighting and medical devices in a disaster area can clearly save lives. Not only that, poverty can be alleviated. Trent explains how he and some colleagues recently delivered three PPS units to schools and villages in remote Fiji devastated by cyclone Winston
‘Without power the school couldn’t even print out exams for the kids to do,’ Trent says incredulously. ‘Our Facebook site lights up every day with hits from all around the world, people are crying out for this product.’
Trent is understandably satisfied with his efforts and now wants to get it out to the world.
‘We’ve created something that can really solve a global issue.’