Policy-makers around the world recognize the value that investing in R&D can give back to society, and that the researchers and innovators of today will help shape our future. With such a mindset, one sees the diversity of the topological and climatic conditions, but also the limitations of an island as an opportunity for the development of new solutions. Reuniwatt is a pioneer in solar energy forecasting and monitoring, and proud on its island heritage.
Turning constraints into a creative force
Reuniwatt was founded in 2010 in Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean, an outermost region of the European Union with a densely urbanised coastline and a National Park at its centre. Our story and our people are closely bound to the island, where our HQ are located until this day, while remaining in close contact with the European continent through our Paris office. We have been a European H2020 Champion, as we were awarded with an SME (Small and Medium Enterprises) Phase 1 grant for our e-SPACE Monitoring project (e-Solar Performance Analysis and data Collection for Energy). And yet, being located on an island gives us a different perspective: The absence of an interconnected electrical network is a strong incentive to innovate in the sectors of energy storage solutions and the management of IT-controlled integrated short circuits, so-called “Smart grids”.
Reunion’s government wants to turn the fossil fuel constraint into a creative force and use the island’s strengths to develop techniques for producing high potential renewable energy. One step in this direction is taken through the higher education system: In order to become a hub for scientific knowledge in the Indian Ocean area, Reunion can rely on a total of 46 institutions dedicated to Research, including the University of Reunion Island, research laboratories (PIMENT, LE2P) and an Engineering School (ESIROI) with masters dedicated to energy management and sustainable development.
Developing local intelligence through cooperation
This is where innovative companies like Reuniwatt step in: With 4 patents and more than 40 scientific publications since 2010, Reuniwatt has strong bonds with the academic world and is putting its focus on market-driven innovative solutions. Our irradiance and solar energy forecasting solutions allow for an optimised balance of energy generated on the island from different sources, and to encounter the variability of solar irradiance in the tropical island climate.
Reuniwatt has supported two CIFRE PhD scholarships since 2011: Maïmouna Diagne (2011-2014) and Frederik Kurzrock (2015-2019) both obtained their PhD at the University of Reunion Island, which is a French public higher education and research institution, welcoming 15,000 students every year.
But the efforts to encourage the switch to renewables don’t stop with research activities.
Bringing the island forward by mobilising local talents
Despite Reunion’s high unemployment rate, especially among young people, the island is not holding back on its efforts to include Reunionese in the renewable energy revolution. With around 3,000 jobs in the energy sector and nearly 255 jobs in solar-energy based electricity and heat production, Reuniwatt is proud to be part of that change. Companies such as Reuniwatt make sure that local people with a higher education degree can have access to a qualified job in Reunion and do not have to choose between a certain career or living on their island.
Also, Reunion Island is letting its inhabitants actively take part in moving towards 100% autonomous energy. Thanks to the financial support of the regional authority and the tax exemption, a fleet of nearly 165,500 solar water heaters exists on the island, which makes Reunion the no.1 place for solar heaters per capita in the EU. Also, thanks to the “Photovoltaic Check” scheme, 803 self-consumption installations for a total capacity of 3.2 MWp, with 78% of these installations including a storage unit, have been installed on the island in 2018. Hence, the Reunionese population plays a huge role in changing the local energy production to more environmentally sound technologies. The electricity is used for self-consumption or re-injected into the grid – an ideal application for irradiance forecasting.
Investing into a greener future
Reunion Island is working hard to achieve a successful energy transition. This is valid on an individual level, on the policy making level, in research and on the level of many small and medium companies.
Reuniwatt is the perfect example of a Reunionese success. The company has effectively been able to use local, national and European levers to develop efficient solutions in order to accompany the island’s energy transition – all based on the belief in innovative ideas and the capability of humans in finding solutions to make this transition possible. To say it with the words of the inventor of modern-day electricity supply systems himself:
“The progressive development of man is vitally dependent on invention.
It is the most important product of his creative brain“
― Nikola Tesla, My Inventions ―
Reunion Island is on the best way of keeping creative minds and let them shape the green future of this exceptional tropical island.
You might like this read about the experiences of one of our PhD students.
Reunion island is trying to promote scientific exchange partnerships, so if you are interested in spending
some time on this beautiful island, don’t be shy and apply!