Soon after they started Dulas, one of the founders of the company went to Sub-Saharan Africa. He was shocked at the level of poverty he witnessed and the lack of a reliable power supply. Many of the countries visited at the time were also conflict zones and many people were dying because they couldn’t receive blood transfusions, simply because there was no access to blood storage facilities.
He realised that, with so much solar energy in these countries, it would be relatively easy to create much-needed blood storage refrigeration solutions using solar power. This was one of the first products that Dulas went on to produce. This quickly evolved to become a main focus of Dulas around the world: using the same technology to develop safe vaccination product storage, so that solar refrigeration would not just help to save people’s lives in hospitals, but could also prevent illnesses from occurring in the first place through vaccination.
In addition to this work overseas, Dulas is involved with a number of energy projects based in the UK. These include work with the Welsh Government’s Renewable Energy Developers (RED) programme, helping to deliver environmental assessments for several significant renewable energy projects across Wales; a project with renewable company, Emtec, to install a new hydropower energy recovery system at Scottish Water’s Carron Valley water treatment works in North Lanarkshire; installations of wind and solar schemes around the UK and a new scheme to test and develop commercial solutions for harnessing renewable energy sources for EV charging, and other off-grid requirements.
Useful learnings from Dulas
Building renewable energy schemes requires all sorts of skills, talents, people, and technology. However, there are three principles I would like to focus on when it comes to communities that want to develop their own projects or initiatives – the 3 P’s’ - which are, ‘persistence’, ‘patience’ and ‘politeness’.
Starting with the last of these, ‘politeness’, it may seem an obvious principle, often when dealing with sensitive issues such as perceptions of the land, or its uses, it really pays to understand what the needs of others are. Quite often, the perception of what is acceptable can vary quite significantly between people and very often community projects are required to take account of all of those that may be affected by any project. With so many human interactions required as part of a project, approaching discussions in a courteous and structured way allows the full exchange of information, and helps to get buy-in from the people that will affect what you’re trying to do.
Patience is also key. In developing any kind of renewable or green energy project, there’s a tendency to come up with a fantastic idea and hope that it will come about really quickly. But that’s unrealistic because the nature of renewables is that you’re going to be taking energy from the wind, water, or sun and, even though that’s undoubtedly much better than burning fossil fuels, it can still have an impact on people’s way of life. Therefore, you shouldn’t expect to achieve your goal overnight. You have to do the right planning from the start and discuss your ideas with numerous stakeholders – sometimes over a long period of time, and that requires a lot of patience.
And finally, working in this sector requires persistence. That’s because you’ll hit many obstacles along the way – there are so many things that will cause you to throw your hands up and say ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’ – whether it’s a negative response or encountering an engineering or technical issue. You have to learn not to give up and to keep going until you get to the finish line. Of course, if it’s an unrealistic goal then it’s important to recognise that it’s time to move on, however, in my experience, persistence usually overcomes any obstacle and there’s always ways to do something if it is really worthwhile.