Milestone Posts

Announcing Partnership with Forest Trends

Posted Saturday 20 October 2018 by Eva Wissenz.

GoSol is landing in South America! We are very happy about our latest partnership with the organization Forest Trends and excited to start in Brazil where we have a lot of demand for our SOL5.

Forest Trends is a US based NGO supported by USAID and IKEA Foundation. One of their goals is to support the creation of supply chains that allow the indigenous communities to market sustainable harvested forest produce. By supporting the sustainable production of for example roasted nuts, dried seeds and fruits, it becomes possible to leverage globalization to improve the livelihoods of the indigenous communities and strengthen their position to protect the forests.

The cooperation between GoSol, Forest Trends and the indigenous communities starts by identifying the most value-adding uses for solar thermal energy and how to best boost the local communities’ livelihoods. For many energy intensive processes, such as dehydrating, roasting and other food processing, the GoSol technology will allow the communities to tap into the free power of the sun, for processes for which they would have had to use firewood.

Once the first phase of the project is completed, the solution can then be scaled to support indigenous communities throughout the world’s rainforests to protect their livelihoods and enable sustainable supply chains.

The project started October 2018 in the state of Rondônia, Brazil.

The Amazon, the worlds largest rain forest home to many indigenous communities.
Indigenous communities are at the forefront of forest preservation.

Transition Time for GoSol: New Video,
Scaling the Direct Solar Economy

Posted Friday 19 October 2018 by Eva Wissenz.

Dear Friends, Partners, Customers and Followers,

It’s an important moment for us: GoSol has achieved the Direct Solar Economy vision! By providing a clean source of energy to SME’s and farmers, a sustainable economy has started in sunny developing countries.

The educational trainings with Plan International in Uganda is the last building brick of our vision. Everything that had to be proven is proven now: the SOL5 is working, it can be produced locally, entrepreneurs are using it daily, it has a measured impact, and many young trainees want to start a sustainable business right now (and some already did!). The market is there and international partners are working with us... Now is the time to scale up.

In this 5min video, we are presenting our journey, our ecosystem of amazing partners and supporters and the achievements over the past years.

We hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we do. Big thanks to Urs Riggenbach and our amazing video maker, Basile Remaury!


GoSol’s full vision starting in Uganda
with Plan International

Posted Tuesday 4 September 2018 by Eva Wissenz, Lorin Symington.

Since the very beginning, the way we see it at GoSol is that we must deliver an efficient and powerful solar concentrator, and a training to users, and… more. Over the past years, we have refined the SOL5 to the point where local entrepreneurs can actually use it daily to save money, increase their incomes, and develop their businesses. And this is happening when it’s sunny, and even on cloudy days depending on the cloud-cover. When it’s not possible to use solar heat in the rainy season, then users can go back to their old system for a couple of weeks. But the impact of polluting industries and climate change’s horrible side effects being what they are (deforestation, drought, people migrating away from the countryside in search for a better life…), something more than a device and training was needed to accelerate the adoption of SOL5: education.

So I’m here in Kisumu, Kenya since about 2 weeks to start a new cooperation with Plan International Finland and Plan Uganda’s SmartUp Factory project. With years of experience building in about 10 different developing countries, after monitoring about 5 baker groups in Kenya and Tanzania over the last two years, with support from Autodesk Foundation to create a construction manual, with a CTO that is also a baker, all our team has build a great educational training course that I’m so happy to share.

It’s good to be back in Kisumu, the team is now autonomous when it comes to producing these solar concentrators and baking equipment. Truly it’s an exciting development and it’s something we’ve been working towards for a long time. So far I’ve been on quality control, checking in with them at their workshop, ordering materials and documenting the progress.

Completion of welding of a SOL5 Oven.

I’ve also been reconnecting with our partners, visiting our newest pilot project and preparing for the upcoming educational and business incubation program with Plan International. I’ll be spending a few weeks at Plan’s SmartUp Factories in two hubs in Uganda. At each location I’ll be working with about 12 young people who are energetic and motivated to have an impact in their communities through innovation and entrepreneurship. Part of the idea with the SmartUp Factories is that Plan recognizes that people from poor communities are uniquely positioned to identify challenges facing their communities and, properly empowered, are the best people to address those challenges.

SmartUp Factory participants. © Plan International.

Given the success of our pilot projects in Kenya and Tanzania, 5 of which are bakeries, we’re going to be teaching a well rounded course combining hands-on training and theoretical knowledge where the students will learn to install, use and maintain our SOL5 concentrators, as well as learn about the science of energy, the impact of our solar thermal tech on environmental and health issues, as well as the baking and business skills needed to run a bakery, or another business of their choice.

A Kenyan solar baker preparing a SOL5 for baking.

In the past we’ve worked with already established bakers, but this time we’ll be training from the ground up. You might remember that I got the chance to bake all sorts of treats in South Africa a few years ago, and I remember the super enthusiastic kids from Greenside Primary School!

In Johannesburg, 300 kids from Greenside Primary School loved the solar baked treats!

I remember also all the creativity of students! Like for example Rorisa, a young entrepreneur. Between that trip and these first feedbacks and today, we are thrilled to see that our vision is becoming true!

On top of this, our CTO Arnaud, has been baking traditional French bread for a couple of years now, developing a deep understanding of the art of baking and the science behind it. He has been coaching me, I’ve baked with our pilot projects, and I’ve started a sourdough culture from scratch that we hope will be pleasing to the people in Uganda because real sourdough bread stays fresh much longer than bread leavened with chemical starters, and so is especially appropriate for a solar powered business.

Preparing sourdough.

We have our ideas about business, but we’re really committed to supporting the students of Plan’s SmartUp Factories to create businesses according to their own ideas of what their communities need. This upcoming educational course is just the first step on a beautiful journey of co-creation.

In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing stories and examples of success stories from the SmartUp Factories as well as footage and ideas of motivated students who are going to help establish the Direct Solar Economy in Uganda!

 

Stay tuned, subscribe to our newsletter:


Announcing Partnership with Plan International Finland and SmartUp Factory programme in Uganda

Posted Friday 13 July 2018 by Urs Riggenbach.

In partnership with Plan International Finland and Plan International Uganda, we are starting a new cooperation in Uganda providing our SOL5 solar concentrators and educational trainings to the SmartUp Factory program.

SmartUp Factory is driven by the idea that "since the poor and marginalized youth experience the challenges in their community and society first hand they are in a crucial position to identify those challenges and come up with innovative solutions to them."

Every month, Plain International Uganda is welcoming 20-30 new youths to the
venue and they receive full access to the mentoring, trainings and equipment. The program is currently running in six locations in Uganda.

In this project, GoSol is providing SOL5 units, hands on trainings, theoretical lessons and support with the incubation of solar bakeries.

We are excited about this partnership and the potential to empower more and more entrepreneurs with our SOL5 through education.

Stay tuned for more updates by subscribing
to our newsletter:

 

SmartUp Factory has empowered over 3500 young people from Uganda with the skills needed for social entrepreneurship.


Autodesk Foundation renewing support for 2018

Posted Thursday 26 April 2018 by Eva Wissenz.

Last February, Autodesk Foundation team visited 2 groups of entrepreneurs in Kenya and they were fully convinced by the impact of the SOL5. On the top picture, our followers can identify Mr David Chepkwony, first solar baker in Kenya, always so enthusiastic and happy with his SOL5 at Koptige!

Jean Shia and Ryan Macpherson of Autodesk Foundation visiting the pilot projects (4th and 3rd from the left).

Our team is so happy to announce that the Autodesk Foundation (USA) is renewing us a grant this year to support our work for a very exciting support program.

Thanks to Autodesk Foundation, we were invited last year at Pier9 in San Francisco to learn CNC and prototype and they actively supported our educational actions in Kenya with our partner World Vision Kenya and World Vision Finland.

All the team is very motivated to continue the good job and expand the solar fire as much as possible!

Autodesk is inviting us at the Near Future Summit in California in May, so stay tuned!!


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!!


Wärtsilä’s video introducing our project

Posted Thursday 18 January 2018 by Eva Wissenz.

After a year of cooperation in East Africa, Wärtsilä Corp. is promoting our initiative in their own words.

Watch their video presenting our work in Tanzania and Kenya:


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