Developing Emerging Technologies in Clean Energy with the ‘Systems Thinker’ Method

and how Systems Engineering will transform the clean energy movement.

By Matthew N. Portis - Founder & CEO, SolGreen® Solutions

 
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At SolGreen we’re re-imagining and creating new systems in the form of products that give everyday people access to a clean energy experience. From the development of the first solar table to our current integration of software that changes the way first responders gather data during and after an emergency to save lives- our approach clean energy is that of a “systems thinker”.

As a CEO and technologist, this systems thinking approach is the foundation for how I see innovation in the clean energy space of the future- a future that serves the needs and desires of everyday people while accomplishing this sustainably and efficiently.

The Evolution of Sustainable Systems Technology

Systems are all around us, and have been since the beginning of mankind. They have helped us hunt for food, travel the planet, go to the moon and live the lives we want to live. They also continue to perform the tasks that we either don’t want to do, don’t have the time to do, or simply can’t do efficiently. From computing a simple math problem in school, to the usage of GPS satellites that hover thousands of miles above the Earth’s surface and integrate with our phones software apps that navigate us to our destinations.

Today, we face an exciting and pivotal moment in history where our systems are quickly evolving to maintain and accommodate our ever-changing way of life. Sustainability and climate change are terms that people have seen debated on cable news outlets and read in countless news columns but rarely see how it can enhance their own lives. Just imagine if we moved the needle to center the conversation on how clean energy can positively affect our current systems and our way of life in a way people can see, use and understand.

Understanding the ‘systems thinking’ approach can change everyday life and make the communities we live in safer and more resilient.

Conception of the Evodia Solar Table

On a sunny day in Phoenix, AZ I was writing on a laptop at a bookstore. The exterior space of the bookstore was well furnished with seating for leisure, although sunny outside, everyone sat inside on their laptops and cell phones charging to wall outlets, most wanted no parts of the outdoors because the outdoors lacked one everyday necessity they needed to stay power to charge laptops and cell phones.

Developing an emerging technology like the solar table is a complex process of (1) understanding both the problem and the simple solution, (2) planning and understanding the life cycle of your product and (3) how it will interact with the user and its environment. 

In the end, the idea of a solar table went from a vision I had in a bookstore to the formation of a new company – SolGreen® Solutions – and the development of the first U.S. patented and commercialized outdoor solar table, called the Evodia Solar Table.

 

 
 Evodia Solar Table at Michigan State University.

Evodia Solar Table at Michigan State University.

 Evodia Solar Table (night) at Michigan State University.

Evodia Solar Table (night) at Michigan State University.

 

The Evodia Solar Table provides people and communities with access to important everyday amenities that are typically enjoyed indoors. Outdoor spaces can now accommodate the needs of modern life with the help of clean technology.  Fueled by solar power, GFE & USB device charging, Wi-Fi, streaming, LED lighting, comfortable seating and protective shade are all a part of experiencing the convenience of the Evodia Solar Table.

To date, the Evodia Solar Table has crossed the chasm of “great idea” and into a tangible, real life solution for universities, schools, government and commercial entities for access to clean power outdoors. Built around rigorous key safety requirements and manufacturing scalability the solar table has proven itself to be more than convenience but a necessity for the resiliency of our infrastructure.

In Fall 2017, our Evodia Solar Tables at Florida International University remained fully intact and operational after surviving the Category II Hurricane Irma that swept through the state. The hurricane aftermath left many areas without power on the campus, yet the solar tables gave power to students and first responders the next day. Allowing them to charge devices, contact family and connect to Wi-Fi. This event spurred interest from Puerto Rico, a place devastated by last years Hurricane Maria, who are now looking to utilize our solar tables for disaster relief, resilience and economic growth. 

 
 Student trying to find a signal during Hurricane Irma.

Student trying to find a signal during Hurricane Irma.

 Evodia Solar Tables giving power to students after Hurricane Irma.

Evodia Solar Tables giving power to students after Hurricane Irma.

 

 

A New Hope

In seeking to understand the big picture - the ‘systems thinker’ must be bold, brave, and provide epic-scale thinking to generate solutions that can positively affect the simplest yet biggest parts of our lives. Imagine solar tables in every city in the world. It can and will happen. 

Through my 18 years as a systems engineer, now CEO of SolGreen®, I’ve come to understand that using ‘systems thinking’ to integrate clean technology with everyday amenities will change the way we shape the future of sustainability, give people access to clean, sustainable energy and further develop and enhance the end user experience.

These game changers are what I aim to write about in this blog series and why we must continue developing and supporting new emerging technologies that utilize renewable energy resources to benefit everyday people’s lives.      

SolGreen® Team