Stefan Larsson-Mastonstråle: we need to understand the why behind things 

Stefan Larsson-Mastonstråle: we need to understand the why behind things 
Published: 27. April 2023
Categories: Interview

Stefan Larsson-Mastonstråle has founded and co-founded more than 30 companies throughout the years and worked with startups and incubator companies. The first solar panels he made more than 30 years ago are still used in many countries today. Currently, he focuses on his company Maston group, working on a solar power plant with seasonal energy storage systems that could potentially help solve the global energy crisis.  

Solar systems and innovative ideas have been part of his life since early childhood. Stefan read a lot of science fiction books about self sufficient houses in the future: how they would grow and store food, clean themselves, own energy systems, and converse with humans.

The house where he lives today is called Solgården (the solar farm) and is operated by a house computer Solveigh (solar way). “Our house has the first computer that I designed and installed in 2002, it’s more than 20 years old now. It was my first attempt to make a AI computer that controls the house, the heating, cooling and the electric power production, and it also stores energy in a big battery. This winter we stopped using additional heating from the floor heating system in February. It is based on the solar energy system template that I was thinking about when I was young,” says Stefan. 

Stefan’s father was a military officer who then re-educated himself to be a computer science engineer and started working at an American computer company. “He showed me how to make an electric scooter when I was just seven years old, and we were building things a lot in a garage at home. We invented heat pumps and absorbtion chillers. I was constantly building gadgets all the time. When I was 15 I made an absorption chiller solar heat operated cooler and many other inventions after this.

And then, my dad said we should try and build our own solar panel system. That first product we made became a certified product that has been installed in several countries, and I see them at times when I’m travelling. Today they are still operating even though they are more than 30 years old. So the core product is still alive and the patents have been available and free to use for years now.”

The importance of why in saving the world   

Today, Stefan spends a lot of time speaking and mentoring others, supervising PhD students and holding lectures with managers in his company Maston group. “There is a lot we do a good job with, teaching and education, but at the same time, we don’t show engineers how machines are made or what kind of methods they should look for, or how it is utilized. 

I started to understand that we seldom teach why we read all these books and sit in lectures. I started to approach people in my company more from the perspective of solving things and fitting in different methods. I can see that it makes an impact and people start to see things slightly different. 

When looking into sustainability we need to understand why we would change things. It´s very clear that we have a huge mess in agriculture, in forestry, how we treat the seas, our fellow humans and other beings – the whole ecosystem. We need to work continuously with inspiring others, showing ´how to´ do things, and more,” Stefan explains. 

The holy grail of energy and struggle to get it on the market

“We have been working 15 years on the Sunthetics technology concept that is intended to cover all energy by storing huge amounts of it. It’s the holy grail of energy to enable 100% renewable energy utilization with solar, wind power, etc. The solar power is stored into a liquid that is biodegradable. The capacity is higher and cost is lower. It also has a very good ´round trip´ efficiency back to power and heat compared to what we have in traditional power plants today. 

The solar panel field itself is also the storage system in the patents that we have been developing. I think the average solar panel that people are used to seeing only captures roughly 25% of the available power. Ours are vastly different and are producing both power and heat with about 80% efficiency depending on materials used in the manufacturing, the scale of production, etc. 

But, we are struggling to forward all this advanced knowhow to the market, to the installation and engineering companies that build solar panels and power plants. Amazingly enough, the industry has become from being very open to new ideas in 1980-2000s into a situation where everything is commercialized based on mainstream technology rather than taking in state of the art options. Today, it is a very narrow technology roadmap for all the players on the market. It takes more and more time to get a new product out,” explains Stefan. 

The future of power 

According to Stefan, in the next 50 years we will move away completely from fossil energy and implement fossil free energies, with one solution to utilize the new eFuels being developed worldwide. “Biofuels will not be enough to cover the replacement of all fossil fuels, but solar and other renewables combined with eFuel energy storage technology can do this even with a global excess capacity in a few years from now. The EU Commission, World Bank and investment banks have also started to realize that we need energy storage in renewable energy and use that as much as possible. 

Fossil fuels will not continue being the business engine of the world, nuclear power may not be possible at the scale of fossil energy, and the biofuels are not enough. At the same time we are looking into using odd new renewable fuels, like using ammonia, alcohol based fuels produced from air and water. All sorts of technologies will potentially come out on the market now that we are moving away from old technologies. It’s really happening, but constantly changed by policies and how much is invested, etc,” says Stefan. 

Sharing is the key

Stefan’s motto is: do ut des (I give, so can you). “One thing I have learned is that it’s generally a good thing to give, to share. Not everyone is sharing back but that is alright. We all do something that is valuable and we mostly do it for ourselves and for our children, but not always for humanity in general. I am really concerned about a lot of people having a big impact on the world but not always being oriented towards doing good. That is a big problem we need to work on more.”

When going back to young Stefan and his futuristic dreams of a self sufficient house, one could say he has filled some already, but there are more. “I have about 50 000 files with ideas, a huge database, and I’m telling all students and engineers that I meet that they can finalize some of my ideas, work with them. I am thinking of forming some kind of foundation for that as well, to channel funding to great engineers so they could complete them into products. I won’t live as long to finalize all these ideas myself.” 

Interviewer: Kerttu Kongas

At Impact Day Stefan will talk more about how to bring energy production from fossil fuels to renewables.

visit estonia logo

Join with over 4000 impacters & get inspired!

Would you like to receive valuable content about sustainabilty and creating impact? Want to ASAP get news about our freshly announced awesome speakers and updates in the program? Sign up and we'll send you an inspiring letter twice a month at most!
Link to Facebook account
Link to Linkedin account
Link to Instagram account