Day in the life: Peter Italiano, Head of Product Development at Solarcentury
In the first in our new “Nice to meet you” series featuring Solarcentury people, Peter Italiano, Head of Product Development at Solarcentury, talks about when he met the Queen, and how he helped bring Solarcentury’s latest module Sunstation to life.
Peter: I work in the Innovation team at SC and we are responsible for developing new solar products that people want to put on their roofs. My job is very diverse – one day I might be working with the team on the initial conception and design of a product, or teaching installers how to fit it to roofs, or I could be in China overseeing the manufacture and assembly of products on a production line. Once we have an idea, we constantly iterate until we know we’ve created something of the highest quality that we’re confident our customers will like.
Q: What motivates you about your job/working in solar?
The solar industry is a very dynamic and no day is the same which keeps you on your toes. I find working in solar hugely rewarding because I’m at the forefront of designing technology that can have a direct positive environmental and social impact, and help people to live more sustainably.
Q: What was your role in developing Solarcentury’s latest product Sunstation, launched earlier this year?
Developing Sunstation was a considerable team effort – the product was in development for several years! I worked on ensuring Sunstation was certified in line with current standards and regulations, so that our customers can put it on their roofs with no worries about the roof or the system. Meeting stringent standards often involves a lot of design iteration, testing and re-testing, as well as collaborating with certification bodies and writing collateral, such as technical files, that demonstrate the product complies with directives. Right now I am heavily involved in expanding Sunstation’s international accreditations so we can enter new markets.
Ultimately, we know we have designed a successful product because sales are good, so we know people want it on their roofs. Also Sunstation won a prestigious iF DESIGN AWARD 2016 which sits it alongside products from some massive consumer brands like Apple, Bosch and Sony.
Q: What other projects have you worked on?
I have always worked in New Product Development, developing clever solutions to real world problems. Prior to Solarcentury I worked in the lifting industry for a company that specialises in developing lightweight portable lifting solutions. I designed a new product for lifting people out of confined spaces. The challenge was creating something very lightweight but also strong and safe enough to rescue people quickly in emergency situations. The project ended up winning a Queen’s Award for both Innovation and Sustainable Development and it’s still in use today. It was very exciting meeting the Queen to accept the award.
Q: What was you route into this role
I studied for a Masters in Mechanical Engineering, and like many people, I left Uni not really knowing what was next so I took some time out to explore options. It was through a lecturer at my university that I heard about a knowledge transfer placement (KTP) which is a collaboration between a company, usually an SME, and a university, with the aim to facilitate a transfer of expertise into a company.
My KTP involved setting up internal expertise for accelerated design including embedding capabilities in CAD and FEA analysis through to manufacture and supporting products through technical certification and third party accreditation. I enjoyed it so much that I ended up staying for three more years.
Q: What inspires you in the world of engineering and design?
I always find it inspiring to see how boundaries are continuously pushed, whether it’s a building that stands almost 1km tall, a superjumbo carrying 800+ people to the other side of the planet or simply a solar light that means people in off-grid areas can study at night. I love how engineering makes the impossible possible, or finds a simple solution that vastly improves quality of life. Right now, I’m really excited to be involved in a small piece of the jigsaw that is making solar simple, attractive and affordable, which ultimately makes solar accessible for more people.