Solar-powered refrigeration has been a winner at business plan competitions across the country, driven by a team from the University of Houston and the business plan the team created to commercialize a technology developed by NASA.
The business plan project is part of the curriculum at the nationally ranked Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship at the C.T. Bauer College of Business and pairs teams of students with technologies that may be ripe for commercialization.
“We’re replacing diesel reliance with solar panels for refrigerated railcars to save railcar owners’ money and promote a cleaner solution,” said
“I made the logo, the slide deck, and pretty much all the branding that goes out to the world,” Nguyen said. “We also had help from the Valenti School of Communications public relations students to conduct research, contact the press, and create content.”
The team was confident in their business plan and believe their product could make a difference in the industry.
“By retrofitting railcars with solar energy, we can promote a cleaner, healthier industry,” said Nguyen. “We can remove over 200,000 kilograms of diesel particulate matter (about 440 pounds) and over 2 million kilograms (4.4 million pounds) of nitrogen oxides from the environment per year if we are able to retrofit all 14,000 refrigerated railcars.”
Despite some challenges, PolarPanel leaders say they are doing well with their business plan.
“Some customers are so used to diesel generators that they are apprehensive about trusting solar energy,” said Nguyen. “We’ve discovered the time is now, and solar energy has become more and more advanced.”
The process was demanding.
“Through Wolff, we went through all the ends of creating a business, going through customer validation, finding a customer pain to relieve and value proposition, figuring out strategic partners, a marketing plan
The students spent a substantial amount of time preparing for their competitions, work that paid off when they began winning.
“We spent hours practicing our pitches,” Nguyen said.
The team worked well together.
“While we have different roles, we all pitch at presentations and feed off each other’s
“We’re really excited to have been accepted in so many prestigious competitions,” said Nguyen. “We find it very validating for
“We’re blessed to have gotten into so many competitions in just a year of starting.”
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