Spotlight on Manoj Divakaran – Founder/Managing Director at Empereal Group
05 May 2022

Manoj Divakaran has over 33 years of outstanding track record as a leader and entrepreneur in Technology, Financial Markets, Renewable Energy, and Water, dealing with the mission-critical areas of Banking, Financial Trading Services, Power Generation, and Water Desalination. He is currently recognized as a thought leader in the renewable energy and water industries and is a strong proponent of Open Innovation. He has successfully incubated various innovative ventures and projects in the renewable energy and water sectors. He has mentored many start-ups and has assisted existing innovative industries to expand into new markets.

He is the Founder and Managing Director of Empereal Energy Group – A group of companies formed to address the global infrastructure challenges in making renewable energy and fresh water available to all, in an economically viable and environmentally sustainable manner. Empereal has created numerous innovative and award-winning solutions and has implemented many challenging projects in renewable energy and water desalination. Empereal operates in Singapore, India, and the Middle East. Empereal has developed several patented technologies in solar desalination and solar thermal systems and has used these technologies to implement several projects in India and the Middle East. Empereal is recognized as a pioneer in Architectural Solar for the award-winning design and projects at Dubai Expo 2020.

Manoj has lived and worked in many parts of the world and embodies a rich multicultural and global outlook. He is currently based in Dubai, UAE. Manoj completed his B. Tech degree in Applied Electronics and Instrumentation from the College of Engineering Trivandrum and his MBA in Global Energy Management from the Bauer College of Business – University of Houston. He completed his Masters’s program in “Leading Innovation and Change” from the University of York and is an alumnus of the Ashridge Business School (UK) where he did the Leadership Process and Leading Complex Teams programs.

Manoj is widely traveled and is a keen student of business, culture, and philosophy. He is a mentor to many and is a big believer in sharing his learning with others. He writes and speaks regularly on issues and solutions related to solar energy, solar desalination, and rural empowerment. He is actively passionate about cricket, writing, food, and trekking.

  • Please describe your role at Empereal and expertise in the sector?

Empereal operates in all areas of solar energy and water desalination. We are a Research and Development company in CSP and have implemented several projects with our patented Linear Fresnel Technology and Thermal storage system. We design and implement Multiple Effect Distillation (MED) and Forward Osmosis systems for Solar water desalination. In Solar PV we are a design, EPC, and O&M Company with a special focus on Architectural Solar. We have completed over 600MW of solar PV projects, 130 MW of CSP projects, several water desalination projects, and many BIPV architectural projects. In UAE we have implemented several architectural solar projects for Expo 2020 and solar PV/storage projects for Masdar. As Founder/CEO of Empereal, the focus is to constantly deliver higher value to our customers through innovative and reliable design and projects.

How did your story in solar begin and how much has it changed since then, if at all? Any particular story or reason you would like to share about joining this field?

My career involved leading IT projects and mission-critical financial trading services in various corporations. Leading the global deployment, consulting and professional services practice for Thomson Reuters made me aware of the lack of infrastructure in power and water in many geographies, which makes many communities unable to participate in the new economies and improve their quality of life.
Along with a partner, we started a Research and Development company in CSP to be able to produce high-grade steam, which could be used for power generation and water desalination. Our Linear Fresnel technology was selected after 3 years of development by the Government of India for setting up the country’s first large-scale solar thermal facility in 2011. We set up the first Solar seawater desalination plant in 2014, winning the National Innovation Award in 2014. Today we have many areas of operation in solar energy from CSP to water desalination systems to Solar PV and Architectural solar installations.

  • What is a unique selling proposition about the services provided by Empereal?

Our deep engineering and design skills along with the highly skilled implementation team who have successfully implemented several iconic and complex projects like the UAE Pavilion at Expo 2020. From complex thermal solutions to aesthetic and cost-effective architectural solar solutions, we can combine cutting-edge design, engineering, and implementation to provide the best cost-effective solution for our customers.

  • Can you tell us about recent innovations in BIPV and the role of Empereal in R&D?

Solar PV technology has developed a lot using different materials to ensure it goes beyond just ground-mounted and rooftop installations. Today Solar PV systems can be used as a building material in certain situations. Flexible solar panels, multi-color solar panels, Façade solar panels, use of optimizers and micro inverters for managing partial shadows, and parametric design for curved mounting structures like the UAE Pavilion at Expo 2020. They all contribute to solar enhancing the aesthetic appeal and allow solar PV to enhance the architectural and sustainability design of the buildings of the future.

Empereal’s vision for Architectural BIPV is that the “entire outer skin of buildings have to become aesthetic and energy-generating to realize a true net-zero future”. Empereal has a strong presence in parametric architectural design of structures, and expertise in integrating different materials to provide the best mix of aesthetic, cost-effective, and high-efficiency architectural Solar PV solutions. We work with experts in the construction and façade industry to ensure that the new solutions follow all the latest regulatory standards and are durable and cost-effective. Several solutions were developed for the Expo 2020 at the restaurant complexes, pavilions like the French Pavilion and UAE pavilion, etc., which highlight Empereal’s ability.

  • In your opinion, will BIPV replace the conventional rooftop PV design? If so, how long would it take the BIPV to dominate the market?

Architectural BIPV will become more visible and accessible for energy generation. Several countries are providing incentives or regulations to promote the use of the space available on facades, canopies, etc to create nearly net-zero buildings. This will reduce the cost of ownership of buildings over their life cycle and provide greener buildings for a future where individuals and corporations are more conscious and active in managing their environmental footprint.

  • What could you tell us about your sector and company’s growth opportunities in the region?

Empereal is very focused on its growth in the Middle East solar markets and provides various services in the industry. Ranging from design to developing custom solar solutions to implementing large rooftop, ground-mounted and architectural solar solutions and providing Operating and Maintenance solutions we are a one-stop-shop for solar solutions. Our CSP and water desalination solutions are also very useful for the region in implementing thermal energy and water recycling solutions.