SunPort is about accelerating America’s shift to solar energy, by letting everyone participate in crowdsourcing demand for it. What better place to do that than Kickstarter?
We all know the world is going solar. The issue is not if, but when. We need it now, so the key question is "how?" How do we get it done? How fast can we get there? And how much damage will we do to the planet in the meantime?
Solar is growing, but way too slowly. Despite falling costs and increased development for years, solar still barely shows up as a US electricity source.
Based on current U.S. power sources overall, if you spent one hour cruising Kickstarter today, less than 30 seconds of your energy use came from solar, but a whole 51 minutes came from coal, natural gas, and nuclear.
And we forget the nastiness of non-renewables because they don't spew their emissions in our faces, but tall, not-so-distant smokestacks still constantly spew.
For years 90% of Americans have said they want more solar, but most still do nothing about it. Our politicians and power companies have spent billions to get us more solar, but owning solar panels is still out of reach for most people.
Solar on your own roof can make sense if you have plenty of cash or a good FICO score, plus a sunny roof on a house you own and plan to stay in for years. If you can do it, please do it! But in truth, solar today is mainly for prosperous people in the suburbs. We need solar beyond the suburbs, solar for everyone, solar without barriers. So how do we make solar easy and affordable for all?
By consuming solar energy with SunPort.
You don’t need to own a power plant to use power, and you don’t need to own an airplane to travel by air. Why should you need to own solar panels to use solar energy? You don't.
For many people access is better than ownership, so why own it if you can just use it? And solar energy is quite affordable, even if the solar panels aren’t.
If enough of us are willing to pay just an extra penny or two per day for solar energy, we can create massive consumer demand for more of it. And, most importantly, demand for solar energy can only be met by building more solar installations.
More solar use = more solar demand -----> more solar built
Demand for solar energy is the best way to attract substantially more investment for solar projects. More solar investment means more solar panels feeding the grid, which displaces non-renewable power sources.
Could SunPort be the best way to create that demand?
SunPort is not your typical solar product. It doesn’t have solar panels and it won’t save you money. But it could help you save the planet (or at least take better care of it for future generations).
SunPort is the world’s first smart grid solar delivery device. Instead of making solar energy, SunPort lets you use it by consuming the output of grid connected solar systems: grid energy + solar credits. SunPort does this by automatically matching solar credits to the energy you take from the wall. Just by plugging in, you instantly demand and use 100% solar energy, easily and affordably.
And SunPort doesn't just demand solar energy, it directly funds new solar panels for non-profits as well, but more on that later.
Choosing to use solar with SunPort is kind of like buying organic food or fair trade coffee. You pay just a little more because you care about where it comes from. But your choice makes a big difference where it counts. Part of SunPort's beauty is the high leverage impact it has.
Within a single day, one SunPort can employ a whole day's production from as many as twenty (20) solar panels. Those panels installed as a typical residential rooftop system would cost about $20,000!
In theory, the entire output from a $20,000 solar installation could be demanded by single a $50 device. That’s 400 to 1 financial leverage! Even light use of a SunPort to regularly power a laptop yields 20 to 1 leverage. SunPort automatically demands solar for you, wherever and whenever you plug in, so you can exert it's high-leverage effortlessly. No panels. No hassles.
So how can you consume real solar without panels? You can’t. Real solar only comes from panels, but you don’t need to own them. SunPort “asks” the people with the panels for their solar by buying and consuming the solar credits their panels supply.
For just $20 per year in solar credits, you can solar power anything you can plug into a SunPort, and each SunPort received through this campaign includes one year of unlimited solar to get you started. While we didn’t invent these solar credits, we did figure out how to get consumers using them. Lots of them. Easily and affordably.
Officially called a Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (S-REC), a new solar credit is created each time one megawatt-hour of real solar energy produced from real panels, goes into the electrical grid. Using S-RECs is the only way to actually use solar without going off the grid. That’s why they were invented—to let anyone access solar power and help grow the solar energy market.
Here’s a helpful video from the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explaining how Renewable Energy Certificates work:
When the big companies in the EPA’s Green Power Partner Program (you know their names) get solar power, they may build their own systems or they may just buy the solar energy, but either way they use S-RECs to track their solar use. And now we’ve come up with an easy, affordable way for you to do the same thing.
Certified S-RECs are big chunks of solar, each one larger than a typical home’s entire monthly energy use. Our innovation is simply breaking S-RECs down into much smaller increments called SunJoule™ solar microcredits.
SunJoules are the right size for the small slices of power individuals use day-to-day, like powering a laptop or a gaming console. When a SunPort measures one kilojoule of grid electricity being used, it retires one SunJoule from the system and credits the SunPort’s owner with that amount of real solar use.
SunPort works with a non-profit called ReChoice to acquire the S-RECs and break them up into SunJoules. ReChoice is dedicated to giving all consumers choice in their sources of electricity.
For every dollar ReChoice spends acquiring the S-RECs to make SunJoules, they spend a matching dollar to put new solar panels on the roofs of other non-profits. The cost of that new solar is built into the SunJoules, so when you use a SunJoule, you’re helping build new solar.
Non-profits getting free solar panels from ReChoice benefit by reducing their operating budgets. They receive free electricity from the panels, permanently lowering their electric bill.
Those tiny little SunJoules really pack a punch. Real solar for you, new solar for the planet, and free electricity for non-profits. A triple win.
A little more solar installed by ReChoice is a great start, but that only happens when lots of people use SunPort to demand solar energy. And once that happens, consumer demand for solar from SunPort can trigger even more solar development, beyond what ReChoice builds. So where do you begin?
The sun is waiting to supply an endless amount of solar energy. SunPort lets you start using 100% solar immediately, so the next move is totally up to you. Since you’re reading this online, you probably own a computer. What if you just plugged your computer into a SunPort?
Using SunPort to power just a laptop, you can easily demand 10 or 20 times more solar than today’s average power consumer. That’s a great start (and a desktop computer will demand even more).
What if everyone in America ran their computers on solar? The Kickstarter community by itself, all charging laptops using SunPort for an hour, would use more than enough solar to equal the output of a whole coal power plant for an hour.
SunPort empowers us to have a big impact collectively, even if we each just do a little bit. Imagine if millions of Americans start using SunPort to demand solar energy. We would create a solar movement!
It took a few iterations to get it right, but SunPort’s design has been proven with the help of hundreds of testers using Beta SunPorts produced by our factory in China. We’re ready to go, so you can start demanding solar as soon as yours arrives. Just back this campaign andyou’ll be ready to go. There are no long-term contracts or commitments.
During this Kickstarter campaign, we're offering one free year of unlimited solar included with each SunPort to encourage as much solar use as possible starting the day it arrives. Use it to power anything you can plug in, all the way up to 10 amps at 120 volts, or 1200 watts .
After the first year, unlimited solar for your SunPort will cost just $20 for another whole year, but based on backer feedback and solar usage patterns, we expect to offer other plans as well. We’re also exploring brand partnerships that might even get you solar for free.
SunPort is designed so you can use solar where you want, when you want, how you want. We even used SunPort Betas to solar power the production of everything you see on this page, including our entire campaign video, making this the first solar-powered Kickstarter campaign.
And, in collaboration with indie hip-hop label Rhymesayers, we used a bunch of SunPort Betas to completely solar-power a music video for Atmosphere’s most popular song, aptly titled “Sunshine." Here’s a look at those SunPort Betas in action behind the scenes of this historic solar-powered video...
During the Kickstarter campaign, SunPort comes in your choice of four bright colors (yellow, pink, blue, and green). Perfect for highlighting your solar use everywhere you plug in.
When you’re using solar from your SunPort, it lights up green to tell you (and others around you) that you have solar. It’s a great way to visibly show your commitment to solar and start some conversations.
The SunPort app (for iOS and Android) shows how much electricity you’ve upgraded to solar over time, like a fitness tracking app, and you can add multiple SunPorts to your account to create even more impact. You’ll also be able to chart the collective impact of the whole SunPort community or just those in your network.
We're also planning transparency and verification features that will allow users to track their solar back to a system of origin and specific S-REC ID numbers. That way, the community can help oversee the integrity of the overall system and make sure solar claims are always authentic.
Gamification and social features will help keep the app interesting and allow fun interaction around challenges and collaboration. The app will even measure the electricity used by your phone or tablet running the app and automatically upgrade it to solar, without even plugging into a SunPort. And if you select the SUNPORT DEV CLUB reward, you’ll be invited to test our app during development and help shape the final version.
SunPort easily plugs into any standard three-pronged outlet (NEMA 5-15), so you can take it with you and use solar everywhere you go in the U.S., including…
As the world’s first plug-in smart grid solar delivery device, SunPort is part of a growing effort to create communication between energy producers (solar farms) and consumers (you). This communication improves renewable power distribution while giving us more choice over the kinds of energy we consume than ever before.
But it’s important to understand that SunPort is not affiliated with your power company, nor will it affect your home power bill. It simply measures the grid electricity you take from any wall outlet (at home or away) and upgrades it to solar using a ready supply of SunJoule solar microcredits, managed through the cloud.
So don’t wait for panels, politicians or power companies. Please back us now, and begin demanding solar with SunPort.
What makes a tiny startup think it can do something as big and audacious as paving a pathway to solar for everyone?
It can only be described as a sense of calling, and a firm belief that if people are shown a way to make a difference, people will make the difference.
SunPort began at a solar conference Paul and Don attended in southern California several years back. As electric power industry veterans, they were responding to market signals and expanding a traditional power equipment business into solar. They hoped to make connections in the solar industry and gain insight into the industry’s needs. They weren’t seeking a new mission or way to change the world when their light bulb moment came...
“Who has solar?," a speaker asked for a show of hands. In an auditorium full of thousands at a solar conference, only a couple dozen hands went up. These were solar industry insiders—the true believers—and even they were struggling to go solar. Don and Paul realized the world needed a “Solar 2.0.” There was no way solar could become the planet’s primary power source unless something changed radically to make it much more accessible for everyone.
Don and Paul were soon joined by Matt in brainstorming ideas and mining insights. Things clicked when they realized the business potential of solar consumed as a service. Patents were filed and plans were made, but they needed to build a team. At Startup Weekend Santa Fe in the spring of 2013, Paul met Tim and Nick, who joined on to add much-needed technical capabilities. Further development and numerous pivots quickly led to a crude but recognizable version of what is now SunPort.
Before long, after living in Asia for years, Jonathan Droege returned to the U.S. to assist with operations and logistics. Next, an unlikely encounter with Hank at CES 2014 followed by a trip to China yielded a partnership with a world-class manufacturer, and product development began in earnest. Before long, Aaron joined to work on the platform, and Julia came in to run social media as SunPort came more clearly into focus.
Then ABQid, a new Albuquerque-based startup accelerator, invited the SunPort team to join the first cohort. There, Webb and Kat challenged the team in business model and customer development. At CES in January of 2015, Paul met Marty and learned about Fallon’s StarterKit pitch competition coming up in March at SXSW. The SunPort team won that competition, resulting in Fallon’s collaboration on this Kickstarter campaign.
Finally, SunPort’s semi-finalist showing at the Sustainable Brands Innovation Open in May 2015 connected Mateo with the team. He brought design and branding sharply into focus, just in time for our Kickstarter launch.
The path has been long and winding, but it’s now paved and ready for you to join in. SunPort’s vision is solar as a service, broadly used by everyone who cares about where their energy comes from. SunPort technology can be embedded in virtually any product running on electricity. A whole-house product is on our list for development, and an enhanced version of SunPort with on/off control and USB charging. SunPort technology licensing is also planned, so appliance and electronics companies can offer 100% solar-powered versions of their products. SunPort believes consuming solar should be easy and affordable for everyone, regardless of whether they can afford panels or own a roof.
But right now it’s your turn. The solar is real and waiting for you to use it. SunPort lets anyone use solar, easily and affordably, with no long-term contracts or commitments. This idea works for people who genuinely value solar power. And if enough people join in, it could cause a solar breakthrough. So what about you? Are you ready to join the SunPort community and help power a brighter future with solar? Let’s go!
In addition to covering the costs of fulfilling campaign rewards, funds raised through this Kickstarter campaign will be used to pay for SunPort app development as well as final device testing and safety certification.
Video music ("Fish Delay" and "Massive") provided by INKY MUSIC
Risks and challenges
Hardware has inherent uncertainties and integration risks. Logistical challenges like parts shortages or production delays can also come up. Our commitment is to keep our backers updated on our progress and be transparent about any problems that may arise.
We have partnered with an experienced ISO9001 contract manufacturer from Shenzhen, CHINA, and we’ve visited their factory. They have built 31 different SunPort prototypes and then shipped over 1,000 SunPort Betas, which are working flawlessly. They manufacture numerous related products marketed under other labels, so they are well versed in scaling up production for this type of product.
We still have an important testing and certification step to complete for SunPort. The process takes about 10 weeks and could incur delays if there is a problem. Our manufacturer has been through this process numerous times for other products and they believe we should not have any difficulties.
Our online platform is built and running. It works well with a prototype version of our mobile app. However, the SunPort app still needs to be fully developed and tested. We plan to work closely with our backers on designing our UX, and we’ll actively share campaign updates about our app development progress and challenges.