Solarglas, the green "fantAzienda"

Photochromic glasses that allow energy to be stored in the glass through photovoltaic panels to then be used as electricity, the idea of ​​bringing a Teutonic logic, such as that of Solarglas, in Italy it is that of the students of the class 4 D, ITC Elsa Morante from Limbiate which, participating in the "MB4U" competition they imagined a green company. They won the competition with a bronze medal. And that's how they wanted it, as the referent explains, Greta Colucci, with the aim of "breaking through to Southern Italy where alternative energy should be considered almost a natural event".

In a few years it could be like this:

1) What do you produce? Why is it "green"?

THE glasses we produce, as well as being photochromic, present inside photovoltaic panels with the aim of storing the sun's rays in the glass and then being able to reuse them as electricity. Photochromic glasses can vary their transmission coefficient depending on the intensity of the light that hits them. By the action of the silver halides (a chemical compound formed by silver combined with fluorine, chlorine, bromine and iodine) contained in them, these glasses take on a gray color when exposed to sunlight. The major benefit obtained is the economic savings on costs that were initially incurred for the use of electricity.

2) When and how were you born?

We were born as a school project in order to participate in the "MB4U" competition dedicated to young people and businesses in the province of Monza in Brianza. The purpose of the participation was to be able to design a company that could adapt to the characteristics of the territory and that produced an innovative service or product. We set up SOLARGLAS to try to offer a new generation product and technology. In 2012 we came in third place.

3) Have you taken a cue from abroad? What difficulties did you encounter in importing an idea into Italy?

Abroad, the alternative energy sector is much more advanced than here. We took our cue from Germany because the German philosophy seemed to us the philosophy closest to our way of thinking about the energy future and also the one that gave the most guarantees in terms of development.

Importing this completely Teutonic mentality meant having a good starting point to fill the gap that today differentiates us from other European nations. At the beginning we did not encounter major difficulties, favored by the fact that our province often proved to be attentive and prepared to take on challenges related to innovation.

4) How did you approach the Italian market? What costs and requests?

After a somewhat "timid" departure, thanks also to careful advertising planning, in recent weeks we have received a good number of orders, especially from our region. Our customers have trusted us despite the still somewhat high prices, demonstrating that they have understood that their investment will produce economic benefits over time, not immediately.

Our goal is to demonstrate the quality of our product and play ahead of battleship China, the world's largest producers of photovoltaic panels that are also invading our market, favored by the attractive competitive costs proposed, which overshadow the risk of a purchase of plants created in distant and unknown factories. We offer guarantees and certifications, can the Chinese do the same?

5) How do national or regional regulations facilitate or hinder you?

Although substantial quotas of incentives have been eliminated, those of Italy always remain above the European average, regulated by the famous "Conto Energia" with decrees published in the Official Gazette that set the incentive rates that the State provides to the plant operator. However, the future promises uncertainties.

Further economic cuts would take us along the same lines as Spain and Germany where the market loss has led to numerous layoffs. The risk of an explosive mixture of economic crisis and Chinese competition is very real, favored by the lack of an industrial policy at the European level.

Anti-dumping measures such as those already introduced in the US, by setting taxes on products from China, would be desirable in order to decisively support the economy of renewables. We trust in the foresight of our politicians ...

6) Which realities and which areas of the country are most interested?

Although the South has a much higher energy potential than the rest of the country thanks to the favorable climate, our customers are mainly from the North and Central Italy, where the spread of plants is constantly growing.

Our main activity is the installation of small systems, but not only for private household users, but also for public administrations such as municipal buildings, schools and so on. The requests for large plants are not many and concern companies that see photovoltaics as a real investment.

7) How many are you in your company today? How do you intend to expand in the future?

The little more than a newborn, SOLARGLASS has a relatively young average age (32 years) and staff coming mostly from our region.

In addition to the two founding members and administrators, our company has three collaborators with the task of carrying out administrative / accounting and marketing activities. The technical / operational part is entrusted to eight skilled workers in the sector, two of which (the only ones over forty) with considerable experience as they come from companies operating in the sector of neighboring Switzerland.

We are confident for the future, even if for now it is still premature to foresee an expansion of the workforce. Our main goal is to be as competitive as possible, offering products that are always valid and innovative, expanding our sales area in Italy and abroad, with the wish to "break through" in Southern Italy where alternative energy it should be considered almost a natural occurrence.

Interview byMarta Abbà