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Design

New product outed - Flora

Tor Valenza, a.k.a. Solar Fred of UnThink Solar posted today on Renewable Energy World about Spotlight, and included mention of a new product we’ve been working on. So, I guess we’d better let Flora out of the lab. We’d love to hear what you think.

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This product concept arose through listening. Microgrid Solar, which recently installed our Lift product for the St. Louis Rams, suggested we create something flower-ish, based on napkin drawings they’ve done in collaboration with progressive clients. Microgrid really gets aesthetic solar. So we started talking to other integrators, property owners, and architects while we iterated on an idea. We were able to borrow some elements of Lift which customers have really liked, and have gotten a lot of positive feedback.

Below are some renderings of what it might look like around the Chapel Hill and Raleigh area.

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Of course, we wanted to make something aesthetically appealing, but also ensure that it looks purposeful. We try to make beautiful machines which will make a compelling clean energy statement. In this case, we wanted to reference natural forms (flowers) without making a literal copy of a flower. We also wanted to try something smaller than Lift (which is 22’ tall, 24’ wide, and has a power capacity of 3kW). Flora (so far) 16’ tall, 11’ wide, and 1.5kW – about half the size (and price) of Lift. And we wanted to create something that could be installed in groups.

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And as usual, we want to make our products flexible, so they can be customized and accessorized. Of course, it’s available in your favorite color combination. It also has two axes of tilt adjustment, and options for seating, power outlets, lighting, and communication displays. As those items get detailed out, we’ll share them.

And we’d love your ideas! Please comment.

Product Update – Lift now with 87% more Awesome

Our installation at Sandy Grove Middle School was the first public appearance of our new-and-improved Lift structures. We made progress…

  1. 50% more energy production
  2. time to assemble is now under one day
  3. four structures fit on one truck
  4. more beautiful (IMHO)

Lift Refinements Graphic v3

DSC_3331Spotlight_Solar_Sandy_Grove-0216 DSC_3328 

How we did it: We listened.

We went to our customers’ sites for several installations, photographed every moment, and discussed with our installer partners what could be better.

We listened to this guy, Andy Stough. 

Sandy Grove installation-9961

He’s engineered rockets, bulldozers, and innovative wind generators. He made a two-way joint for Lift’s solar arrays that moves* like butter, and locks against 140 MPH winds, in an wonderfully simple way. He used a 3D printer to try out the details, and a rare laser shaping machine for production.

We borrowed lessons from my work on other architectural products. Balancing beauty, ease of assembly, flexibility, and function is tough, but it’s what makes a great product. Spotlight products act like Legos, designed with standard parts which go together in different ways.

And we listened to our design advisor, David Hill. He’s good.

Some highlights of changes:

  1. refinements to the shape to convey stability while reducing visual weight
  2. new convenient places to hoist large components
  3. 20 fewer bolts
  4. new, clever ways to adjust the solar arrays (like butter)
  5. Lumos 250 watt solar modules. Elegantly simple, efficient, and beautiful from every angle – even the back.

Don’t worry, it still comes in 200 colors.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on these changes and other ideas you might have for Lift. Please comment.

 

*No, the arrays don’t track the sun, but they can be oriented in any direction very easily.

Whirligigs in Wilson

Vollis Simpson has become famous for his amazing whirligigs – whimsical constructions with myriad figures, shapes, and colors, all mechanically wind-powered. Now in his 90s, Mr. Simpson still actively builds and maintains his creations. But even for a man of his considerable capability, keeping up with 30+ large and aging clockwork machines/artworks is a bigger task. So the city of Wilson, NC has set out to create a whirligig park, to preserve and display these terrific creations, and celebrate in an enduring way Mr. Simpson’s accomplishments. Work has already begun, and I was privileged to see it in process.