Ten years after its launch, Sunna Design, the small start-up from Blanquefort in the suburbs of Bordeaux (Gironde), is on the way to succeeding in bringing light to the most remote corners of the world deprived of electricity.
Created by an engineer keen on travel, Thomas Samuel, who then had the intuition that solar had the potential to power public lighting, the company has gone into semi-industrial mode and has already installed more than 100,000 solutions for lighting in 60 countries, particularly in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. And she will have the opportunity to show all her know-how, since it was she who was chosen to represent the Gironde at the “Made in France 2021” exhibition, which will take place at the Elysée on 3 and July 4th.
10,000 solar and connected street lights each year
Still based in Blanquefort on the site of the Bordeaux Technowest incubator, Sunna Design has two semi-automated production lines in “factory of the future” mode for the assembly of its streetlights, and a warehouse of 1,000 m2 for packaging and storage. It is from there that some 10,000 solar and connected streetlights leave each year, even if the plant has the capacity to eventually increase to 100,000 products per year.
Because the market is still in its infancy, and the development potential remains enormous. “The penetration of solar in public lighting could rise to several tens of percent, whereas we should be barely at 0.1% today” assures Ignace de Perst, director of Sunna Design. Former director of the solar activity of Schneider Electric, he joined the start-up in 2018 to accelerate its development.
Acquisition of American Sol in 2020
In particular, it has enabled Sunna Design to diversify. “We were doing 90% of our development in Africa and the Middle East. We have set ourselves the objective of doing half of it in so-called mature markets [plutôt occidentaux] and the other in emerging countries, so as not to rely solely on countries at political risk. It is in this strategy that we acquired the American Sol in 2020. We did well, since our American market has weathered the pandemic well with a growth of 30%, while other markets in Africa have suffered greatly. “
The company had analyzed in passing, that the problem that arose in emerging countries, was just as valid in western urban centers, where municipalities sometimes give up lighting certain areas, such as a playground, a parking lot or a dead end. , for cost reasons. In new neighborhoods the solar street light may also be an option.
“We are targeting cities and also companies that want to participate in the energy transition and reduce their consumption,” explains Ignace de Perst. In Gironde, for example, we have carried out the public lighting of a district of Eysines, and that of the parking lot of a supermarket in Langon. In the Meriadeck district in Bordeaux there are also a number of our lights. And internationally, we built a huge Toyota industrial site in Alabama. “
700 million people around the world still do not have access to energy
Sunna Design nonetheless remains very attached to its starting point, access to energy in areas that are not connected. “The stake is very important since 700 million people in the world still do not have access to energy. There is also the issue of displaced populations, with the supply of energy to the refugee camps. “
Sunna Design’s largest overseas base is in Nigeria. “We also did a lot of things in Togo, Burkina Faso, Mali… These are very local markets, in villages where there was no lighting infrastructure, insists Ignace de Perst. We are not in the cliché, we are providing real solutions. »Between support for economic and social activities, security, issues around lighting in these remote areas are numerous. To answer this, the reliability and robustness of the products are essential, especially in places subject to very high temperatures, and sometimes to phenomena such as sandstorms.
“The big stake is the battery”
“We are not on products with a lifespan of one or two years. We are looking at the long term with reliable products over 20 years or more, assures the director of the Gironde company. The big issue is the battery, where we have a lifespan of twelve years, but in our maintenance contracts we include their replacement. “All the streetlights are also equipped with Bluetooth at the foot of the pole,” which allows you to benefit from a complete remote diagnosis, even in the depths of an African village. “
Sunna Design offers two main families of streetlights, with a power of 120 Wh and 240 Wh, which then adapt to local needs, in terms of color temperature, optics, luminaire power, etc. company to benefit from a very complete range. “It takes four assembly stations to assemble a product, which leaves the factory in five to seven minutes,” adds Vincent Groussaud, production and industrialization manager at the Blanquefort site. And an operator can be trained in just two hours. Sunna Design could thus set up assembly lines directly in certain countries within a few years.