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PI partners with Allume to manufacture world-first solar sharing system for apartments

Suraya SalehMarketing Communications Manager

Melbourne-based start-up Allume has signed an ongoing supply agreement with Planet Innovation to manufacture its innovative solar sharing system, SolShare.

SolShare is the world’s first behind-the-meter solar sharing technology that allows rooftop solar to be distributed to multiple building tenants at the same time.

PI will manufacture 32 units per month from October to December, with production expected to scale in the new year to meet customer demand.

A collaborative approach to manufacturing

Allume CEO Cameron Knox said the company chose PI as their manufacturing partner because of our flexibility and willingness to work with them to convert their prototype into a device ready for manufacture.

“We needed a partner that could be flexible, but also had the capability to scale, and could help us make that transition from where we were, to where we are now, and Planet Innovation was really the only one that worked,” Cameron said.

Engineers from Allume and PI worked together over a series of builds to improve the design and aesthetics of the SolShare unit, and establish the procurement and quality processes needed to manufacture at scale.

“The real benefit of the PI engagement over the past year has been the collaborative approach. Being able to come to PI with an early stage prototype and work with the team to improve that, and iterate that, and come away with a product that’s not just functional, but easy to assemble, easy to install and looks good as well,” Cameron said.

Allume CEO Cameron Knox, CTO Kristy Battista and PI's Andrew Hornby working on a SolShare unit

Allume CTO Kristy Battista said the advice PI provided around strategic manufacturing had also been invaluable.

“PI helped us consider the whole logistics of the production process; questions like: ‘When do you move to a low-cost region?’, ‘If we’re shipping product to the US and Australia, do you have two different facilities?’, ‘Where do you warehouse your product?’,” Kristy said.

“That extra strategic guidance on top of the build support was really important to us as a start-up. PI really offered the whole encompassing package that we needed.”

PI Product Manager Andrew Hornby, said that having both PI Design and PI Manufacturing teams collaborating directly with the Allume engineering team, enabled them to leverage the strengths of each to deliver a solution with improved efficiency and a shorter time to market.

“Having technical experts from design and manufacturing co-located at PI has been important to ensure a smooth design transfer and a straightforward transition to scaled up manufacturing,” Andrew said.

“We’re now at a stage where we are focused on delivering significant production volumes and are looking forward to seeing those units generating tangible benefits for Allume customers.”

SolShare in production
Unlocking solar for the multi-metered market

SolShare is the world’s first behind-the-meter solar sharing technology that allows rooftop solar to be distributed to multiple building tenants at the same time. This means that, for the first time, residents of apartment blocks and tenants of shopping centers can benefit from solar power.

Cameron said he and co-founder Andrew Justo developed the SolShare device in 2016 after realizing that apartment buildings offered a huge untapped market for solar energy.

“In Australia, 73 per cent of apartments are in low rise buildings, and there’s an increasing number of apartments being built. So we’ve got this very big and growing section of the population who are missing out on solar access despite having abundant roof space to install panels,” Cameron said.

“We decided to create a technology that would allow a single solar system to be shared by multiple units, multiple residents, multiple businesses – whatever sits in the building.”

The pair worked together with a small team of engineers to develop SolShare, a smart hardware solution that sits between the solar panels and the existing grid meters, and sends solar to customers when they need it.

Cameron explained: “The way that it works is that everyone who’s connected typically gets an equal share of the solar, but we’ll send you the solar when you’re going to save the most money. For example, if you go out on holiday for the first two weeks of a month, our system would recognize you’re not using much energy and might send more to your neighbors during that period, but then when you get home, you’ll have this solar allocation banked up, and we’ll start sending you more so that you can catch up to everyone else. This means you’ll be saving more money because you’ll be receiving the benefits of solar when you’re actually using it.”

Diagram showing how SolShare works

Securing commercial partnerships in Australia and US

After experimenting with direct to consumer selling, Allume is now focusing on developing partnerships with solar providers and apartment developers.

Real estate group Mirvac is Allume’s biggest investor and is installing the system in its new apartment complexes.

Allume also has deals with several solar providers around Australia, with units installed in Queensland, South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria.

Cameron said: “There’s over 3000 solar installers in Australia, and they’re all competing in the residential market, so the ability for a select number who we partner with to step out of that ultra-competitive market segment into something which has very little competition is a huge benefit for them.”

Allume is also making inroads in the lucrative US market, partnering with Sunrun, the US’s largest residential solar company.

“We’re currently undergoing technical and reliability testing with Sunrun in the US, and we’ll be sending an increasing number of units to the US for deployment over the next 12 months, which is really exciting,” Cameron said.

“We have also been accepted into the Elemental Excelerator’s Equity & Access Track. This will kickstart our launch into California, focusing the SolShare’s deployment in low income areas, where the savings from solar are most impactful.”

“We’ll be in two continents and across all the Australian states pretty soon. We’ve got no shortage of orders and customers at the moment, which is great.”

Allume will be showcasing the SolShare at the All-Energy Conference in Melbourne on 23-24 October, where they will be looking to expand their partnership network.

Find out more about PI Manufacturing or get in touch.

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Suraya Saleh Marketing Communications Manager
Suraya Saleh

Suraya is the Marketing Communications Manager at Planet Innovation. A former journalist, Suraya is passionate about telling engaging stories for brands that have a positive impact on the world.

Suraya Saleh

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