Carlos Omar Suárez is the CEO of Sunthalpy, an innovative startup in the solar energy market. Facing formidable challenges in both innovation and marketing are part of the game. We caught up with him to get a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities ahead.
Thanks for agreeing to do this interview. When did you realize that the solar energy market was your passion?
My personal narrative starts in my childhood back in the mid 80s when I borrowed a book from my father’s desk the book Design and Building a Solar House written by Donald Watson. I fell in love with the idea of building an ideal world in equilibrium with nature and the environment. I must admit that my “inventor self” was attracted to the challenge of designing and building a solar house which works even when it is cold and cloudy.
Back then I created a “master plan” to achieve my life purpose, but I never managed to follow it. Instead of studying architecture, I had to study engineering. I managed to create a final degree project on solar buildings, but I could not make it a professional career despite my efforts. Instead, I dedicated myself to the automotive and heavy industry. But my goal was still there, and I used to dedicate much of my free time looking for solutions – unsuccessfully, I may add, which caused me great despair.
However, one day, on a return flight from Canada, I woke up due to turbulence, and the solution to the challenge was there in my mind. I knew how to provide sufficient heating to a building despite it was cold and cloudy, after nearly 30 years looking for the answer. A few years later we can now say that we have created the first 100% solar/off-grid building which has been able to supply all the energy need of family in an Atlantic climate. We call it the low enthalpy solar building: Sunthalpy.
I used to think that I was failing to follow my path to reach my life purpose. Eventually, I have realized that I would not have done it if I had not deviated from my original plan.
Can you describe your work? What is your main message?
After demonstrating that low enthalpy solar building technology can create 100% sustainable energy systems even in cold and rainy places, we are now focused on demonstrating that we can enjoy a more comfortable life, with zero energy cost and true independence. Of course, we are also involved in creating a business model which allow us to grow while we are adapting our technology so that it can be massively produced to make it affordable to everyone.
The need today is to reengineer our way of living so we can shift from the fossil fuel model to a sustainable life. We analyze all actions we carry out during the day, to develop a sustainable way. Best of all is that we always get something else apart from sustainability. It is like Nature praises us for being sustainable.
I see our generation very proud of our technological achievements and that’s true. However, if we don’t change now, future generations will suffer the consequences unless we start living in equilibrium with nature. Our current model for living is going to leave a huge mortgage for future generations. Won’t you be annoyed with your granddad if he left you a big debt that totally disrupts your life?
Technology allows us to live 100% solar in full equilibrium with environment. We don’t have to wait for governments or corporations to act. Low enthalpy solar technology is not just sustainable. It provides the best comfort ever seen, and it is for free, and furthermore you gain the right to be 100% independent, because all we need is sunrise, even though it is cold, cloudy, or rainy outside. Now, it is just a matter of will.
What should your future customers understand about your work?
Sometimes we see people are afraid of new technologies and prefer to wait and see how it goes.
There is nothing to fear about our technology. We are just solved the inefficiencies of existing technologies.
The key is that we design every single part of a building/life considering the overall performance. Every single element can have several functions, so that we create synergies that provide unseen effects. This is a very common way of designing in most industries, but it has never been in buildings. So we invite our future customers to learn more with us – both for themselves and for the future of the planet.
What impact do you see happening as a result of your work?
Despite the fact that we are dreamers, we are not naïve. We realize that our model will only succeed if we converted into an attractive business model. It is the only way; we will convince other to join us and then low enthalpy buildings could become into low enthalpy sustainable cities.
I have already achieved my childhood dream. I live in a house that provides everything I need and more. But wouldn’t be sad if I am the only one. We just expect to motivate the right people so that we can trigger the change.
So your product can be viewed as a brand activist disruptor, changing the world as it is being used. What are you working on now? What are your next priorities?
We are working in two main areas. We are developing our Sunthalpy prefabricated home which will be the first 100% solar/off-grid in all climatic area. We are also working in compacting our technology so it can be easily industrialized in order to easily reconvert all the existing buildings in to zero emissions, providing better comfort and cheaper energy maintenance than current fossil fuels. We already know that we cannot count on some economical groups whose interest is to maintain fossil fuels as longer as possible or to find an alternative they can control.
However, our model benefits some traditional industrial activities that can grow with us. Industry unlike other sector is an activity that distributes wealth. Industry must keep reducing its impact, but what if we convince them to join us and produce low enthalpy products and eradicate CO2 from our daily life, so that we don’t have to keep burning fossil fuel for heating, cooling or moving as we do now. We have already one such institution working with us, and we expect more to join in the short time.
Who else should we be learning from?
Anyone who has changed their way of living looking for a more sustainable life.
I know a well-respected bank manager who left his professional career a few months ago to dedicate himself full time to his passion: organic farming. He is doing what he felt was right for him. But he is also doing it for us. I really respect those who care about being rather than having.
What challenges do you see for the future of humanity? For the planet?
The universe is about evolution vs equilibrium. Nothing that cannot evolve lasts. Nothing that is not in equilibrium with its environment will prevail. Either humanity evolves and learns to live in balance with our environment, or Nature will “equilibrate” us.
This is a task that each of us must begin according to our capacity. We don’t have to excuse ourselves leaving that responsibility to our business, political and social leaders, mainly because they are the leaders of the past.
We need the leaders of the future to stand up and lead by example and show us how to live a sustainable life. And then you may ask to yourself, why me? I can tell you, do it for your children, do it for the humanity, but if you step forward you will discover that you will be rewarded with actual freedom and independence. You will evolve into something higher. You and yours will earn the right to live in balance on Earth indefinitely.
Thanks so much for your time.
INTERVIEW by Christian Sarkar