Pursuing cheaper solar power for the people
Delivering affordable and efficient solar power to communities is one of Barrett Dynamics core business objectives.
The Te Awamutu-based operation set up in 2017 and run from the home garage is seeking to “reignite solar as an alternative power source with new technology”.
The whānau enterprise was selected to participate in Kōkiri 2020, the national kaupapa Māori business accelerator programme run by Te Wānanga of Aotearoa from its business and innovation hub, Te Ahikōmako – Centre of Māori Innovation & Entrepreneurship.
Manu says that, while he’s keen for his business to be financially successful, he is motivated in part by the fact that power was very expensive for his whānau while he was growing up amid the cold winters of Ōtautahi (Christchurch). “It was a struggle for my parents to heat a cold house.”
After becoming involved in engineering, Manu has sought ways to make power delivery cheaper to help combat this affordability issue in Aotearoa. “So apart from economic goals, Barrett Dynamics has social and environmental impact targets of wanting to deliver cheaper, and more sustainable power.”
The main kaupapa they’re working on is solar energy 3D tracking technology to improve solar panel efficiency, at the cost of a standard fixed solar system. Simply, their device will “follow” the sun throughout the day, thereby maximising energy capture and production. Barrett Dynamics want to make their technology the new standard in solar installations to significantly increase the output and efficiency for households.
Current tracking technology isn’t new but it’s expensive, Manu says. Finding a cheaper way to do things has clear commercial, environmental and social impact potential.
A working prototype of the technology has been developed with the first trial planned to support the product validation which is expected to be completed within a year, says Manu. Options to market the new technology to solar households or license others to use its novel technology are part of the start-up’s future development plans.
For Manu, who describes himself as an engineering “tinkerer” since childhood, the solar project bears out his youthful passion for pulling devices apart and trying to improve them.
Manu Barrett (Tainui, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngai Tahu), and wife Nikki (Ngāti Hauā, Ngāti Porou) are the co-founders and combined force behind Barrett Dynamics. For the 12-week programme, Manu’s brother Pape Barrett (Tainui, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngai Tahu) joined the duo to support the development of their business.
Nikki Barrett (Haereroa)
On the benefits of participating in Kōkiri, Manu says: “The biggest value has been the access to networking.” By the programme midpoint, he says they’d got networking benefits they estimate would have otherwise taken them up to a year to get, including contact with industry experts.
Another benefit of Kōkiri has been learning about communication skills, such as how to make effective presentations to potential investors. Kōkiri develops start-up teams to be ready to foster and secure investment after completing the business acceleration programme.