A cloudy day, last March 12th. Exactly the day of a demonstration of solar panels for on set. Just before the pandemic broke out, we met the British team of Renovagen with their Fast Fold; a battery system with foldable solar panels. Last month we contacted them for our update on applications in development and found out we could arrange a special demonstration in the Netherlands. In collaboration with the always helpful Wim Horst of the Municipality of Utrecht, Head of Business Development Colin and R&D manager Dan unfolded the Fast Fold system in the Griftpark. A location especially selected by Wim, since they are already experimenting with solar panels there, for example embedded in the pavement.

Earlier that day, Colin and Dan had demonstrated the Fast Fold to the Dutch Marine Corps who will test it during their exercises. Two demonstrations in one day are easy to do, according to the team, the system is set up within two minutes. First see then believe, we thought, but within 2 minutes that was indeed quickly proven.

It is immediately clear how easy the system is to use; it’s basically a battery (Energyhub) with a button that you connect directly to the solar mat. Dan explains: When you press start, the first power out is after 30/40 seconds. You already have power even before you roll out the solar mat. You could even leave the Energyhub inside a vehicle, so you are quicker to move around if you need.

The distance between the mat and the battery is a maximum of 10 meters, without loss. But for the AC power, the cables can be 50 to 100 meters. Enough distance to your set. Not that you need that much, the system is also very quiet. Dan explains that during demonstrations, they purposely run the fans so people understand that the system is on. But that normally only happens automatically at an outside temperature above 35 degrees. It is as quiet as a computer.

How many hours and kVA the system can supply depends on how much you get out. They have a one or two battery system, with 5 or 10 kWh of battery storage. If you bring the Fast Fold to a location fully charged and connect 2 solar mats on a sunny day, you could even generate more than you need.

Colin gives an example of British Marines powering their headquarters with the system during an exercise in Scotland. They normally used 3 small generators for an HQ. Now they only had to connect 1 generator for 6 hours out of 24. They saved 87 percent of the fuel they would have normally used.

A Fast Fold may be too small for a large set, but parallel systems are being developed. The Renovagen team wants to add peak capacity that can be compared with a higher KVA generator. And to be able to provide 3-fase power in a next step. At the military headquarters in Scotland they ran computers, LED lighting and screens on it, similar to a production office, make-up car or perhaps catering on our set. The Fast Fold can also be used in combination with a normal generator and can be set to switch on automatically when the Energyhub is running on empty.

If the battery runs out, there are many options to display it, depending on the user’s wishes; a buzzer or a flashing light, an email or text message or displayed in an app. You can set up alerts and have an overview of locations, charge and amount of power generated by the mats. Dan: “Unlike a regular generator, you can undersize with this system, because it can take sudden peak-power very well. Another advantage is that it has a stable electrical wave-form, so its good for sensitive equipment.

We ask him if you should always put the mat on the floor: “You don’t have to, it could be placed on different surfaces like roofs of trucks or ISO containers. Exactly two fit on top of a regularly truck, it’s the width of a shipping container. It just needs to be secured on any surface so the wind doesn’t catch it.

The life span of the Fast Fold is approximately 10 years. Maintenance costs are low because it contains few moving parts. It is also quite sturdy, walking on it by accident doesn’t break it. Colin says that a delivery van once drove over one during a demonstration, which didn’t damage it. It’s not recommended though of course.

No one has filmed with it yet. Colin says that they are also mainly renting in the film sector in the UK and although rental is the ambition for the future, the Fast Fold is currently only for sale. However, he says: “This demonstration unit that we brought today is available if a Dutch production company wants to try it out. We are certainly open to that.” So contact Green Film Making if you are interested for a production in the future, post-corona.

Many different sectors are interested in this technology: the military, humanitarian disaster relief, events, festivals, and even mining exploration. The big advantage with emergency aid is the very fast set up. For example, with a hurricane, in case there is another disaster you can fold it up really quickly and have it out within a few minutes when needed again. Several units are already in use in the US for humanitarian disaster relief operations. They are also used in UNHCR refugee camps in Jordan. And at first aid training in Africa. Colin adds: “The Fast Fold naturally appeals to sunny countries. But even in Scotland they were able to save 87%, which is both great for economic reasons but moreover of course sustainability.”

Just before the borders closed, Colin and Dan drove back to the UK. We at Green Film Making are very enthusiastic about this technology and also Wim and colleagues from the Municipality of Utrecht are very interested for their event locations.

If you would like to read more technical details about the test with the military in Scotland, read the report here. The Fast Fold is already on sale, orders can be placed with Colin. Download the brochure here. We would like to encourage facility companies to look into the possibilities of investing in these types of applications. Post-corona, more clients will ask for these kinds of alternatives.