For our solution design we have produced a business model that consists of two parts; a vocational school that trains solar technicians, and a subcontractor that installs and repairs solar windows and solar panels. For part two, we patented a device for robotic window cleaning that can also install a solar coating onto the windows, named the Solestre. The process that led us to these solutions involved a series of discussions within our team as well as stakeholder interviews to help us understand the landscape of the solar industry and how our team could best exploit our competitive advantages.
One of our core competencies is our intense customer focus. We value our stakeholders’ opinions regarding the solar industry landscape and conducted interviews to help create a clear understanding that now guides of our efforts. We were able to interview Chad LeRoy, Jim Jackson, and Jack Thomas. Chad Leroy is a associate broker for a real estate firm and provided us information on realtors’ and home owners’ perspectives on solar panels, claiming that the typical lease for solar panels is expensive and that the panels are much more difficult in terms of roof maintenance. Jim Jackson is the Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Maverick Natural Resources, an oil and gas company. Mr. Jackson gave us his perspective which is the fact oil is not going to be leaving society anytime in the foreseeable future, and solar energy needs to be cheaper and easier to install and maintain to truly make further strides in the transition to renewable energy. Jack Thomas is a recent University of Denver student who currently works at ARE Solar, a local solar panel company in downtown Denver. Thomas provided insights on how the actual products work, the usefulness of the Tesla battery concept, and encouragement towards opening a trade school for technicians.
Through our research, we were able to refine our scope and identify the problem more accurately. We confirmed that the world is currently beginning to shift towards renewable energy, that the technology does indeed exist, but discovered that the transition is extremely expensive and the bottleneck is limited access to solar technician education. By addressing the scarcity of solar technicians, we envision our role as being a contributor to the solar industry and the renewable energy revolution through education. We were able to reach these conclusions through discussions between our team, our research in the field, and our interviews with our stakeholders. We then determined our design criteria to understand what our product requires to be competitive in the market while representing our values and concepts. We concluded that our product/service must be able to be produced affordably as well as be financially appealing to stakeholders and adopters. We also want our product to be capable of producing data that can measure the beneficial impact of the device on the environment to encourage and reward its users. The device needed to be physically appealing as well as serve as an expression of corporate social responsibility for companies, a major selling point for our product.
We had several different ideas for our product in the early stages of our project. In the beginning, we created our team based on our interest to address the social issue of clean energy, and our suggestions quickly funneled towards solar energy. Our original product idea was to create solar panels that could appear in roads and sidewalks, which would contribute power towards the city’s infrastructure. After further research, we concluded that the mess of getting approval from the city towards infrastructure programs would be a very lengthy and taxing process, so our team transitioned our efforts towards corporate buildings. We considered that every major city in the country has large corporate buildings that use significant amounts of energy. By creating a solar solution for these corporate buildings, we would be able to not only reduce a company's carbon footprint but also capitalize on large corporate building projects and quickly gain market share. Our product idea then evolved into “solar glass” which is a device that can be installed on these large buildings that convert solar energy into electricity and can provide power for the building. By doing so, companies would in effect be saving money on electricity, reducing their carbon footprint, and establishing a reputation of Corporate Social Responsibility. Our product idea then led us to the concept of potentially partnering with a solar company such as Tesla, to provide batteries for these buildings that could store the excess energy being produced from the solar windows and power the building after the sun goes down. Traditional solar panels sell excess energy back to the “grid” of the solar company, but with the Tesla battery, users are able to store their excess energy and use it later on. Our fourth idea to help produce revenue was to open a vocational school for renewable technicians that also serves as a subcontractor for installation and maintenance of solar panels. By doing so, we address the problem of scarcity of educated technicians as well as provide valuable jobs for the community.
In our solution prototype, we decided that our entrepreneurial solution design to open the vocational school, become a subcontractor, and produce the Solestre product to transform buildings would be the most effective solution strategy. By partnering with a large brand such as Tesla for their PowerWall battery, we would be able to produce the product we need for the buildings as well as establish brand awareness through our partnership. As a team, we are inspired to help contribute to the community and believe our business model to be a significant step towards the transition of society towards renewable energy.