Renewables spinout Odqa is developing a high-tech solar receiver that improves efficiency and enables reductions to the cost of capturing and storing the sun’s energy for conversion into power.
Odqa, which is working on technologies for the concentrated solar power (CSP) industry, has been issued a convertible loan worth £1.2m as part of the UK government’s coronavirus Future Fund for innovative companies.
The company will use the loan to develop its flagship product after postponing a planned round of seed funding following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Company co-founder and CEO Gediz Karaca, a graduate of the MBA programme at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, said: ‘Odqa is on a journey towards creating the world’s cheapest on-demand solar power. What that means is that even when the sun isn’t shining, we can generate electricity cheaply and efficiently thanks to our aerospace technology.
‘We were planning to raise £3.5m in seed funding before the coronavirus outbreak, but instead we’ve postponed that funding round and will use the Future Fund convertible loan to further develop our technology and increase the value of the company.’
Odqa was spun out of Oxford University’s Department of Engineering Science in 2018. Heat transfer expert Professor Peter Ireland, the Donald Schultz Chair in Turbomachinery and Head of the Oxford Thermofluids Institute, is Chief Science Officer and co-founder of the company. Odqa is backed by Oxford Sciences Innovation, as well as a number of high-profile individual investors.
Karaca said: ‘Current CSP plants are already the cheapest on-demand solar energy source, but they have to be large-scale infrastructure projects to be at the right cost profile. Our novel receiver technology enables third-generation CSP plants, which would be the cheapest and smallest CSP plants in the world.
‘Existing receivers contain heat transfer materials, for example molten salts, that severely affect the plant operation. Using common materials such as steel, ceramics and air, our plants can operate with much greater flexibility. We can operate our system from 800°C up to 1,500°C. This paves the way for projects up to ten times smaller at the same cost profile, or a cost decrease of up to 40% compared with same-size second-generation CSP plants.’
Odqa’s founders envisage CSP developing into a multi-trillion-dollar industry over the coming decades, as the world moves towards renewable energy, with the company’s receiver technology unlocking a $2tr market opportunity.
Karaca added: ‘We are taking decades of research and knowledge from the aerospace industry and applying it to the renewables sector. As well as being used for on-demand energy for CSP, our high-temperature receiver could have applications including 24/7 industrial process heat, hydrogen production, water desalination, the production of solar aviation fuel, and the decarbonisation of products such as gas or steam turbines. At the moment we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg that is the decarbonisation of energy.
‘Our next step is to use the data from our proof-of-concept prototype to develop a small-scale replica of the final product, which we will design and test over the next six months. We have also received a grant from Innovate UK to explore the feasibility of constructing a CSP plant with our technology in Namibia.’
Catherine Spence, Principal Licensing and Ventures Manager and Incubator Lead at Oxford University Innovation (OUI), said: ‘The renewables sector is going to become hugely important as countries around the world seek to reduce the effects of climate change, and Odqa’s receiver technology offers an innovative solution to one of the biggest current barriers in the solar power industry. What makes Odqa particularly attractive to OUI is its potential for global impact and the broad range of applications available to its technology.’
The UK government’s coronavirus Future Fund was set up in April to assist fast-growth, innovative companies, subject to at least equal match-funding from private investors.