By Trish Dromey
With innovative technology that uses solar power and LED lighting to illuminate bus shelters and advertising displays, Dublin technology start-up Solar AdTek is aiming to make a breakthrough in global markets this year.
The company, established in 2014, specialises in providing energy-efficient lighting for advertising. It has already installed solar lighting systems for bus shelters in 20 locations, including seven in Ireland. as well as some in Sweden and France.
“We will shortly have solar advertising units in the UK, Italy, Dubai and Belgium and expect to have installed a minimum of 200 by the end of the year,” said Solar AdTek co-founder and chief executive Eoin O’Broin.
The company also provides LED lighting systems which have been specifically designed for grid-connected advertising displays and already has customers for these in eight countries.
“We are now talking to companies in 12 countries and expect growth of up to 500% in this side of the business this year,” said Mr O’Broin.
Solar AdTek is starting the new year with contracts to supply 1,300 sets of LED lights for use in advertising signs in UK motorway service stations and 600 for use in rail and bus stations in Ireland. The company has also tendered for a significant UK project and will be making an announcement about a large Irish project next month.
Given the level of orders on its books and contracts under discussion, the company expects to quintuple turnover to several million euro by the end of 2018.
It also expects the solar lighting side of the business to grow from 20% to 50%.
“LED systems have been our biggest seller up until now, but the solar lighting market is one with the most potential,” said Mr O’Broin.
He previously founded and ran a company that manufactured advertising signage, while his co-founder and Solar AdTek’s chief technology officer John Bouchier co-founded a company which developed LED lighting systems for retail display.
The two men met and worked together on a solar bus shelter project in Dublin for outdoor advertising company Clear Channel in 2011. They identified a global opportunity to provide illumination for a large number of outdoor advertising displays, including those on bus shelters that were not being lit up at night.
Setting up Solar AdTek, they focused on energy-efficient lighting and developed a solar control unit as well as customised LED lighting modules for use on grid-connected advertising displays.
“Replacing existing fluorescent tubes with our bespoke LED lighting will provide an energy saving of up to 80%,” said Mr O’Broin, adding that a solar-powered bus shelter saves one tonne of carbon annually.
“Solar lighting systems are less expensive than getting a grid connection and the benefits include better illumination, lower maintenance and reduced energy costs,” he said.
In 2015, the company raised funding for expansion from private investors and Enterprise Ireland, which identified it as a high-potential start-up. Solar AdTek’s first customer was Clear Channel which was looking for solar lighting for bus shelters. In addition to installing solar lighting in 20 bus shelters, the company has since supplied over 2,000 sets of LED lights to customers in eight countries.
Target customers include outdoor advertising companies, transport authorities as well as companies manufacturing bus shelters and advertising display units. Having seven solar-powered bus shelters as reference sites in Ireland is seen as a significant selling point.
Mr O’Broin said developing solar lighting systems for Ireland was a challenge, because, at 53 degrees north, it has long winter nights which require lighting and short winter days to generate the solar power necessary for this.
However, success here allowed the company to go on to install units in Sweden at 59 degrees north. Plans for 2018 include expansion into Europe and beyond.