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Father and daughter run a start-up: store solar energy cheaply with a water battery
By: Kaz Schonebeek
Hans and Emma Snaak of Solyx Energy offer an alternative to expensive home batteries: storing energy in water. How does that work? And what is it like to set up a start-up as a father and daughter?

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The start-up Solyx Energy has a simple solution for households that generate more solar power than they use: storing energy in a hot water boiler. Father Hans and daughter Emma Snaak offer an alternative to expensive home batteries. “You want to be able to store energy that you generate with your solar panels during the day for when you get home in the evening. Then you often end up with a home battery. But such a battery costs at least 5,000 euros,” explains Emma Snaak. Solyx Energy's 'water battery' costs around 1500 euros, including the installation of a boiler.

Hot water as an energy carrier
The Solyx Energy system does not store energy as electricity, but in the form of hot water. A box is installed in the meter cupboard that monitors when solar panels generate more electricity than is consumed in the house. In the event of a power surplus, a signal is sent to an electric boiler. It switches on and consumes exactly as much electricity as would otherwise go into the grid. You can shower in the evening with the water that is heated.

Excess solar power
More than two million Dutch households have solar panels on their roofs. They generate so much power that there are regular times when too much power is available on the grid. This causes blockages on the electricity grid (grid congestion) and moments with negative electricity prices: those who have a dynamic energy contract then pay for the supply of electricity.
The Dutch also spend a lot on heating water. Heating tap water with the central heating boiler accounts for a quarter of the average gas bill. The Solar iBoost, as the device is called, should both prevent grid congestion and increase the private use of solar power. An average household with solar panels uses only 30 percent of the generated electricity itself; with the Solar iBoost this increases to 70 percent. Solyx Energy brought it onto the Dutch market last year.

Lithium versus water
Lithium-ion batteries are now mainly available for storing energy at home. They are relatively expensive and have payback periods of ten to fifteen years. Emma: “Who knows what our energy system will look like in fifteen years' time in terms of rates, generation options and storage at district level. It is complicated to make an investment that will only pay off in fifteen years.” The payback period of the Solar iBoost is about five years.

Hans: “There are of course all kinds of ways to store energy at home. What we offer is an accessible form of storage.” Emma adds: “Households are becoming increasingly sustainable. Solar panels are now the big thing that households can easily purchase for this purpose. This will gradually shift to forms of energy storage. You need several types of solutions for that.” Hans: “And something else is ideal for every house. In a family with three children who play sports, for example, the hot water is unmanageable.”
Tailoring to the Dutch situation
The Solar iBoost comes from England, where hundreds of thousands of homes have already installed one. Solyx Energy has brought the product to the Netherlands. At the same time, Hans is developing his own product that is more tailored to the Dutch situation and is also suitable for 3-phase solar panel inverters. A smart variant that can respond to dynamic energy prices is also being considered.

Shared interests
Hans is a mechanical engineer by training and until two years ago was the owner of Ratio Electric, a company that develops charging station systems. Emma has made a career in the same sector and previously worked on the roll-out of charging stations for Tesla and at Lilium, a builder of electric aircraft.

The Snaaks have toyed with the idea of ​​Emma taking over Ratio Electric. "I'm glad I didn't," says Emma. “But at the time I thought: it would be very nice to work with my father. That's what I said too. It is of course very special that we work in the same industry and have the same interests.”
To collaborate
After selling his company, Hans wanted to use his knowledge and experience to put a new product on the market, and he came up with the water battery. “He casually mentioned a few times that he was looking for someone to further develop that idea,” says Emma with a laugh. The conversations between father and daughter became more and more serious. “It is important to manage expectations and to coordinate how you look at the collaboration. If Hans wasn't my father, I don't know if I would have quit my job so quickly for this idea. But as father and daughter you know exactly what you have in common. You skip almost all the steps in getting to know your business partner.”

At Solyx Energy, Hans is the man of technology, Emma arranges everything around it. “In principle, I work five days a week, Hans two. But when it comes to the product, it's always in the back of his mind,” says Emma. “When he comes to the office there is always something he has thought about or something he has figured out. He has a lot of intrinsic motivation.” Hans nods in agreement. “Yes, I enjoy developing products. I contribute that. But the company is Emma.”

Emma: “Previously I worked at large start-ups with many colleagues, where everyone is an expert in a certain area. Working with my father is completely different. Hans is really an entrepreneur. He wants to understand everything and know about everything. But also develop products quickly. Just go, get to work, and try things out.”

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  • Sarah Chabane

    41 w

    Amazing, never heard of such a solution before!

    • Rashid Kamau

      42 w

      This super great.

      • Annett Michuki..

        42 w

        wow, this is amazing

      • Saustine Lusanzu

        42 w

        Food for thought, congratulations to them

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