A small wind turbine created at the University of Newcastle is attracting significant commercial investment in a bid to improve remote and emergency telecommunication access.
The university-based start-up, Diffuse Energy, has secured $400,000 in seed funding from Shearwater Growth Equity to scale production of its promising renewable energy option.
The turbine was created by PhD research, engineers Dr Joss Kesby, Dr Sam Evans and James Bradley.
Unlike a traditional open-blade wind turbine, their invention spans less than a metre. This is achieved by enclosing the blades within a diffuser, which draws more air through the turbine.
Diffuse Energy chief executive Joss Kesby said they were changing the way companies buy renewable energy infrastructure.
"Our commercial model removes upfront hardware costs in favour of a monthly subscription, eliminating major barriers associated with technology uptake and deployment," said Dr Kesby.
Suitable for the toughest off-grid environments, the scaled-down, lightweight turbines plug into existing telecommunications infrastructure, enabling rapid setup of turbines onto towers in hard-to-service locations.
"We know small wind can solve the unique challenges of powering telecommunications infrastructure in remote locations and under critical emergency scenarios. The challenge has been how to deploy at scale in remote and off-grid locations in the most cost-effective manner possible," said Dr Kesby.
The funding covers the employment cost of three full-time staff to scale Diffuse Energy's capability for production so that a potential of hundreds of units can be manufactured if there is demand.
Managing Partner of Shearwater Growth Equity, Zac Zavos said they invested in Diffuse Energy because they were operating in an unambiguously large and growing renewable energy market.
"Small wind is the natural complement to solar in that wind often blows when the sun isn't shining. The founding team are very strong and committed to building a great company. We saw the potential for software-like recurring revenue from their small wind turbines," said Mr Zavos.
Powering critical telecommunications in the NSW summer bushfires Diffuse Energy proved the value of its technology for Vertel, Australia's leading provider of mission and life-critical telecommunication network services in late 2019.
The Diffuse Energy small wind turbines continued to power critical voice and data services for NSW Police, Rural Fire Services, State Emergency Services and NSW Health while catastrophic bushfires raged throughout the Mid North Coast and Coffs Harbour region.
Executive Director of Vertel, Andrew Findlay said the Diffuse Energy wind turbine provided alternative power to key communication sites during a time when many sites were affected by mains power failure.
"Not only could we monitor energy production and consumption remotely and in real-time, but we were able to keep our sites and network services running for our government and the emergency services customers when they needed it most to support communities," said Mr Findlay.