AERL Relaunches: Innovative Provider of Off-Grid Solar Power Electronics Builds on 25-Year History

Demonstrating commitment both to loyal customers worldwide and to the vision of founder and maximum power point tracker (MPPT) inventor Stuart Watkinson, Australian Energy Research Laboratories (AERL) has relaunched to return Australian innovation and reliability to the off-grid renewable energy power electronics market. AERL’s flagship MPPT solar charge controller – the MAXIMIZER™ – is again available in medium voltage and high voltage models, with an upgrade in final release stages. AERL’s cathodic protection controller – the CATHODIC CONVERTER™ – has also gone back into production and is shipping to customers in Australia and overseas.

Garage entrepreneurship in Queensland

Founded in 1985 by Stuart Watkinson, (BE Elec. Eng., Grad. M.I.E.A), a graduate of the University of Queensland, AERL was like many technology start-ups: fuelled by vision and hard work in the garage of his parents’ home in Brisbane, Queensland. However, unlike many technology entrepreneurs, Stuart possessed not only a good idea, but also the entrepreneurial skill to turn it in to a commercially viable product. His AERL MAXIMIZER™ would become the world’s first truly universal maximum power point tracker (MPPT) ever to be developed and manufactured commercially. Stuart used that same technology as the basis of AERL’s CATHODIC CONVERTER™ cathodic protection (CP) controller, used for off-grid (standalone) cathodic protection of large metallic structures, like oil and gas pipelines.

“Stuart had the commercial savvy to make AERL’s products marketable while meeting the needs of customers,” said Martine Watkinson, Stuart’s widow, AERL company director since 1993 and current managing director. “AERL’s industry-leading success is largely the result of intense research and development. We invested nearly all excess revenue back into the ongoing R&D of new and improved products.”

Since its founding, AERL has developed more than 40 different models of high-performance power electronic controllers for use in many standalone renewable energy power applications, from solar water pumping and battery charging, to micro-hydro and micro-wind, to cathodic protection. In fact, AERL’s MPPT solar charge controllers alone have clocked an astonishing 750 million field operating hours and supplied an incredible 12MW of power (installed capacity) to customers worldwide. This amount of renewable energy power offsets a staggering 35,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.

Sad news

Sadly, in June 2008, at the age of 45, Stuart succumbed to a rare illness called Churg-Strauss Syndrome. After Stuart’s death, Martine and her family received an outpouring of condolences and support from AERL’s customer ‘family’ around the world, demonstrating how Stuart’s legacy touched the lives of many solar power users and enthusiasts and influenced the solar energy industry.

Back in business

After Stuart’s death, AERL paused operations while Martine reorganised the company. Under Martine’s leadership as managing director, AERL has now relaunched to ship its full product range to customers worldwide. Customers can purchase the following products for delivery worldwide.

MAXIMIZER MPPT solar charge controller range currently available:

  • COOLMAX SMV24 (12V-84V nominal, 24A maximum output current)
  • COOLMAX SHV20 (48V-150V nominal, 20A maximum output current)
  • COOLMAX SXHV20 (48V-150V nominal, 20A maximum output current)
  • COOLMAX SUHV16 (120V-230V nominal, 16A maximum output current)
  • RACEMAX 600B Solar Race MPPT (contact AERL for specifications)

Note: AERL has supplied more than 1,000 RACEMAX MAXIMIZERS to more than 300 solar race teams worldwide, including more than 60 of the world’s leading universities.

NEW: MAXIMIZER MPPT solar charge controller range upgrade (available June 2011):

  • COOLMAX SR (medium and high-voltage models, remote monitoring, data logging, wall mount and rack mount options)

CATHODIC CONVERTER CP range currently available:

  • COOLPRO CP15 (output amp range 0A-15A)
  • COOLPRO CP30 (output amp range 0A-30A)