Monday, December 26, 2011

SunSaluter Inspires Solar Good Will

Eden Full barely has a website and it redirects to a blog, still listed as coming soon. But she also has an idea, and it's not coming soon. It's happening in Kenya. And expect it to be happening elsewhere too.

The 19-year-old second-year student at Princeton designed a motor-free tracker for solar panels that improved their efficiency by 40 percent. Called SunSaluter, she invented it in high school in hopes of pushing solar technology toward the forefront of alternative energy in both the developed and developing world.

SunSaluter is an inexpensive solar rotator that puts energy within reach. 

Most people know what solar panels are. And some people know that solar tracking helps improve efficiency by about 40 percent over panels that are stationary. Their efficiency is improved because once tracking systems are aligned to the sun, the panels can follow it and improve output.

Full takes the concept a step further because SunSaluter doesn't use electricity to rotate the solar panels. Instead, SunSaluter uses highly temperature sensitive bimetallic strips found in most thermostats to track the optimal position of the panel. The cost is about $10 to $20 each.

"I deployed two prototypes of the SunSaluter in two villages of 500 people that didn't have electricity," she told Poptech. "The villages were located in central Kenya about an hour's drive from the closest town. A lot of villagers have cell phones but they had to go into town to charge them."

Because of her innovation, the villagers can now charge cell phones in the center of the village, safely collect firewood, and remain connected to the outside world by powering portable radios. Her company is now working to install refined prototypes in Tanzania, Uganda, and Western China.

The technology that delivers social good around the world.

What makes her concept so unique is that her solution reduces the costs of tracking and improves output without the complicated mechanics and expense associated with most tracking systems on the market. It requires no electricity, motor, or mechanical parts.

In fact, her solution allows for the solar panel to be mounted on wood, bamboo, or metal depending on location and preference, significantly reducing the cost of installation and maintenance. Currently, cost is essentially one of the last remaining hurdles to push solar energy toward mainstream adoption.

Full hasn't been idle with innovative engineering alone. Throughout the year, she has been meeting with people who are interested in partnering with her and applying for grants.

Remarkably successful on this front, Full has won numerous awards, including the $10,000 social good award from the UN Foundation, a $10,000 Startups for Good award from Mashable, 2011 Staples/Ashoka Youth Social Entrepreneur Competition, and a $100,000 fellowship from the Thiel Foundation. She was also a runner-up in the Green Challenge. As runner-up, she received $275,000.

Her first award came from the Scotiabank Ecoliving Student Leadership Award, which helped her found Roseicollis Technologies, a social enterprise that she intends to use to take her tracking invention and other technologies to developing and established communities.

A few panels about Full and her inspiration. 

Full, who was born in Calgary, credits her parents with instilling a sense of environmental awareness in her at a very early age. She also had an opportunity to travel to the Canadian Arctic two years ago, where she saw first hand how sea ice has been diminished as a result of climate change. It was on that trip Full decided that she could help do something to prevent the problem from getting worse.

"If you set creativity and innovation free, well, then you have so much more and so much potential," she said. "So thinking out of the box and applying to science fair projects, I was able to come up with something that was more accessible to everyone."

Since receiving the Thiel Foundation fellowship, Full has taken time off from school to pursue her passion full time. She is now overseeing the installation of her innovation in several locations and may see SunSaluter begin manufacturing. Full built her first solar car when she was nine.

SunSaluter By Eden Full Is A Liquid Hip Good Will Pick. 

At least once a month, Liquid [Hip] highlights good will efforts undertaken by courageous people with big hearts. We don't score them. That belongs to you.

Although the SunSaluter website is still in development today, there are many other ways to inspire youth like Full to have the audacity to dream, invent, and recreate the world. Rather than investing time into the advocation of policy and protest, help support and raise awareness for programs such as the Green ChallengeEcomagination, and the the Thiel Foundation.

These innovation supporters do more than talk about the challenges we face. They do something about it by catapulting young entrepreneurs like Full forward. And that's pretty cool.
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