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The University of Southampton

Leading the way to affordable green energy

Entrepreneurial engineer develops tech to combat fuel poverty.

21 December 2020

Southampton Spotlight shines a light on the impact our University is having across the world through the achievements of the individuals that make up our vibrant and diverse community.

While completing his PhD here at the University of Southampton, entrepreneurial engineer Dr Phil Yue Wu developed an innovative piece of software with the potential to contribute to a greener society with affordable energy for all.

Phil’s software creates a 3D virtual city using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and high-resolution raster data collected by remote-sensing technologies. By showing the levels of solar radiation on rooves throughout the year, the model enables him to instantly see which buildings are most suitable for solar energy systems.

This addresses a big gap in the market, says Phil, who also completed his master’s here at Southampton.

Now a Research Fellow in the University’s Sustainable Energy Research Group , he has founded the University spin-out company, Absolar , with the support of a prestigious Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) Enterprise Fellowship .

Tackling fuel poverty with green energy

Phil is passionate about providing affordable green energy for society.

“Around a 10th of UK households can’t afford to heat their rooms to a comfortable level,” he says.

My aim is for this technology to be the solution to fuel poverty, by providing an affordable and clean source of energy for all.

Dr Phil Yue Wu - Researcher in sustainable energy; Chief Executive Officer, Absolar
Dr Phil Yue Wu
Dr Phil Yue Wu

“We all know we need to do something about climate change, but the uptake of renewable energy is still very slow,” he adds. “It’s not that people don’t want to do anything; they just don’t have the access to information that their own property has the potential to generate solar energy.”

His software provides this knowledge to the market, helping householders, companies and local government to understand their buildings’ feasibility and the benefits of installing renewable energy systems.

Benefits to society

Phil’s software has the potential to help the UK reach its net-zero carbon emissions target, even with the extraordinary challenges posed by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Achieving the UK’s net-zero target will require the large-scale adoption of renewable energy systems, underpinned by viable business models and commitment from society. But the huge financial impact of COVID-19 has limited people’s ability to invest in the renewable energy systems needed to achieve this goal,” says Phil.

“Realising this challenge, we will use the technology to support thousands of businesses and organisations who are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, helping them to benefit from renewable energy, so they can have a sustainable economic recovery,” he adds.

Changing the world with ideas

Phil has been working with Future Worlds , our on-campus start-up accelerator that helps Southampton entrepreneurs change the world with their ideas, to develop his company, Absolar, which is now based on the University of Southampton Science Park .

“It has been a steep learning curve: I’ve gone from developing some software to discovering new ways to bring this research outcome to the market,” says Phil.

“I have so much to be thankful for from the University for providing a very positive environment in terms of innovation and enabling me to think creatively.”

Several local authorities and the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust (UHS) are already using the technology to understand their potential to deploy renewable energy systems and to improve energy efficiency. Phil is planning to use his fellowship as a route into expanding his technology into a market-ready software product and identify routes to international markets.

I can see, in five years, people having access to green electricity with tangible savings on their energy bills. That’s what keeps me motivated every day.

Dr Phil Yue Wu - Researcher in sustainable energy; Chief Executive Officer, Absolar

Find out more about Phil’s company Absolar, and how we support entrepreneurs like Phil through Future Worlds and our Science Park .

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