By Megan Davies and Serena Christiansson, Hague Development and Promotion Section, Hague Registry, WIPO
Motorways don't normally rhyme with sustainable energy but both will be with us for a long time to come. Challenges include: How to reduce the noise pollution that plagues homes near highways? Where to install, for example, large solar panels in urbanized areas? And, how to minimize their visual impact? These are some of the issues that Paris-based startup TechSafe Industries is trying to address.
"SunScreen" is a road-side wall that acts as an extremely effective noise barrier and generates solar power. With aesthetics a major concern surrounding most renewable energy technologies, TechSafe had to ensure that "SunScreen" could easily blend into its surroundings. The solution: a simple and clean design, with a neutral and muted earth-tone color palette.
The structure itself is made of mineral wool, a fibrous material made from rock, commonly used for sound and fire insulation. The modern, inward facing solar panels are mounted at an angle on the top of the wall, minimizing visual impact and, thanks to the height of the wall, glare is minimal. The panels, which can be controlled remotely, directly transfer energy to the main electricity grid and can feed surrounding buildings or charge electric cars.
"SunScreen" has today started lining the motorways of France, generating electricity without taking up space from farms or countryside.
The World Health Organization recommends that roadway noise should be under 55 dB, but roads with higher volumes affect 90% of Paris’s population. A 2017 report by the Conseil National du Bruit and the Agence de la transition écologique puts the annual social cost of noise pollution in France at 156 billion Euros, 106 billion euros corresponding to transport (mainly road)-related noise.
"SunScreen" lowers noise levels by between 10 and 22 dB, which stacks up well against the 8-10 dB reduction offered by classic noise barrier walls. In terms of power, the solar panels produce 340 to 800 watts per meter which, for each kilometer of wall, covers the electricity needs of between 70 and 300 households. And, TechSafe Industries calculate that SunScreen’s additional cost is only 15% to 20% higher than regular noise barriers.
"Developing solutions to address urban challenges".
Ensuring access to affordable and sustainable energy – including solar – is a vital part of achieving United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 7 (affordable and clean energy) and 11 (Sustainable cities and communities).
"SunScreen" successfully addresses both these goals. TechSafe estimates that each kilometer of wall equals savings of 400 to 600 tons of carbon dioxide every year.
TechSafe Industries has gone from success to success since its inception in 2016. Originally founded by Tuan Nghiem Vu and Frédéric Dartois, it went through two years of development and now employs a whole team of engineers and architects. The company was developed in Paris’ Arts et Métiers, WiXplore, Starlabs, La Turbine and Wacano incubators and later received support from several French regions and organization’s such as "VINCI Autoroutes".
"SunScreen" itself holds the Solar Impulse Foundation’s label for solutions that have both a positive environmental impact and are profitable. It has been installed in two locations in France – one in Tours and one in Les Mureaux, near Paris – helping to solve major challenges faced by modern cities.
What next? The company is looking to produce a wall with integrated wind power and Smart City functionality!
TechSafe has guaranteed design rights for "SunScreen" through the Hague System in the United States of America, the European Union and with members of the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI), putting itself in a great position to start distributing its design around the world.
(November 15, 2021)