GoSol.solar Launched!!!

Posted Tuesday 24 April 2018 by Eerik Wissenz.

It’s been a great experience designing the new site and we’re super excited our new website GoSol.solar is now launched.

For longterm followers I think it’s a good moment to answer "why all the website changes?"

Our company domain moved from solarfire.org to solarfire.co when we made the company, then back to solarfire.org (when it was clear people would email to the .com too easily and a business is an organization too) then finally to solarfire.io (because .org remained confusing to people).

Why we started at solarfire.org in the first place was because the whole idea and effort of developing solar thermal technology goes way, way back before the company, and we tried making a non-profit out of it since our motivation was (and still is) to just get the technology out there to people who can use it. Since none of us involved at the time were engineers,

We quickly learned however that our role in the process was providing the expertise about solar thermal technology and a company was a better structure for that.

After launching the company ... surprise, surprise, we needed to succeed as a company, and the "locally maintainable, high power technology" designs we had made before as just a band of adventurers were totally unproven and not-optimized.

Fortunately with our experience in developing countries and numerical tools, we found good demand providing consultancy services to other solar projects or then just thermal projects in general (not coal kind of thermal, but rather optimizing waste-recovery ORC and server-room components kind of thermal).

We were pretty happy the business was able to get clients and survive from year to year, since failing as an entrepreneur is, though a learning experience, best to avoid. Even a big Silicon Valley company hired us for a thermal project which was a great “we can make it anywhere” moment.

But commercial success does not equal success at improving the world, it takes more than commercial logic in order to solve our problems today. It takes risks and engagements that are not strictly dictated by just doing what we did last quarter, just more of it.

The dream of unlocking the sun’s potential to solve social and environmental problems on a planetary scale and find a technological system that could scale quickly and have a far greater impact than resources needed to develop it... was slowly fading into the night.

What then would have been the point?

Making incremental improvements to small parts of existing industries was intellectually engaging, but not what we set out to accomplish. So we thought and fraught about it and discussed what to do.

We came up with a plan and then launched GoSol.org, as an initiative to build momentum behind our original solar designs and high-power, local autonomy concept. We did a small crowd funder that we didn’t really think through in any sort of business or marketing sense, but the people that did find out about it and saw the vision were incredibly motivated and supportive that we continue. Crowd funding didn’t really work as we had no idea if our designs would really work as intended — could normal entrepreneurs really maintain it? really make use of it enough in a real business context for fuel savings to be worth it? what was the optimum design for these entrepreneurs? — were all questions we didn’t know the answer to. What we did know is that we needed an NGO to incubate pilot projects to find out. We were able to participate in World Vision’s Weconomy program and with the help of the crowd-funding funds, Weconomy program, small grant from Rexel Foundation, a small business loan as well as Finnpartnership support we were able to launch 2 pilots in Kenya.

The enthusiasm of the communities for the technology was super high, deep engagement in the maintenance training, and most importantly they kept using it and making repairs after we left. Based on the feedback it was clear that the designs could be significantly improved but fortunately between the communities and periodic returns for bigger repairs, the technology was off the ground commercially. Having small entrepreneurs actually use the technology in their business was an incredible milestone, that took over a decade of thinking, tinkering and testing and then 3 years as a business building up our optimization algorithms to accomplish.

With the momentum we were able to attract support from Autodesk Foundation to improve our designs, training methods and material and from Wärtsilä Corporation to run the next series of pilots to implement everything we learned from the first two, refining the designs, training material, and whole methodology needed for global scaleup. Support from these organizations has been amazing and sped up the whole process by several years, and most importantly has allowed us to prepare both a more traditional "we’ll ship you the hardware" way for people to get the technology as well as the "we’ll train and incubate local artisans to build and supply the technology". Having both these scale-up options, industry and education, at the same time we believe is the recipe for super disproportionate impact, as both scale-up methods reinforce the other and for end users gives all the options, from turn-key to artisans to simply DIY. Making all the options available means entrepreneurs can choose the solution optimized from them and their local economy.

Which brings us to why GoSol.solar.

We had chosen a .org ending for GoSol.org because it gave the signal that we weren’t expecting the technology to be a commercial success (for us). This could have failed for any number of reasons that would have just proven it should be tried again ... just probably not by us. Failure to prove the technology’s potential and build momentum would have been a big hit and we would have had to concentrate on other things entirely. But with a .org we’d be able to easily share how far we got, what we learned and invite other businesses, organizations and individuals to continue where we stopped, succeed where we failed. And if someone else succeeded with it we’d still be there to offer our experience and optimization services.

As it happens, it’s been a success and now a core part of our business, so the .org ending has been confusing.

The new GoSol.solar website presents that what was once just the "GoSol initiative, Free the Sun Campaign" is now the core of our business, network and next milestone we’re focused on now: scaling up the "SOL5" technology.

We’re thinking of re-launching the GoSol.org website later for fully non-profit activities, but for now we are simply grateful for the GoSol.org experience and excited about starting this new chapter with all our partners, clients and supporters! Thanks all!!


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