POC21 WOW-Stories: SunZilla

As the camp launch date is getting closer, the stress levels are rising. There are still questions to answer and problems to be solved. But we are also making big steps forward, and there are quite a few success stories happening around POC21 nowadays, that give us huge motivation to continue. One of them we would like to share with you today.

 In December 2014 we organized a pre-POC21 event in Berlin called Open Energy Micro Camp (you can find more info about it here or in this little video recap ). The Micro Camp brought together some interesting open source projects. One of those projects was SunZilla, that is now taking part on the POC21. In 2014, the project team just managed to build their very first prototype. Now, in July 2015, they just finished the new one and made a tremendous step forward.

To make it more visual for you, here are a few pictures of the first SunZilla prototype:

And here is what SunZilla looks like now:

The progress is just astonishing! We had a short interview with one of SunZilla co-developers Laurin Vierrath: 

POC21: When did you start working on this project?

Laurin Vierrath: We are a part of a non-profit organization in Berlin called Bootschaft, that organizes open air events in Berlin. During those events, we would always end up using diesel generators, that are normally quite loud, require a lot of maintenance and pollute the environment.  So we though about creating a “clean” alternative, that would use solar energy and could be easily installed by anyone. This is how the idea for SunZilla project was born.  In 2014 we made the first prototype and used it during one of our events. Some of the POC21 team members happened to be there and liked the project, so we got invited to the Open Energy Micro Camp.

POC21: What did the Open Energy Camp bring to your project?

LV: We liked the multidisciplinary concept: the Camp brought together people from different areas of expertise, that helped us view the project from completely different sides. It was great to have designers on board and exchange ideas on how to make the prototype more attractive and user-friendly. When you work on something for so long, you sometimes get stuck on certain issues. So having people from the „outside“ look at it also meant a lot. They had a fresh perspective and we enjoyed getting their input.

POC21: The progress you have made so far is impressive. But are there still any challenges left? What exactly would you like to achieve during POC21?

LV: One of the main areas of focus for us right now is increasing usability, to make sure that people without any in-depth engineer knowledge can easily use the product. Another important thing we would like to achieve is adding a display to the prototype, to increase the clarity and add a more „visual“ side to it. Usually people don’t think too much about electricity, it sort of comes "infinitely" from the power outlet. So most of the time we have no knowledge whatsoever about how much electricity is being consumed at the given moment. We want to bring this knowledge to the individuals, creating a personal usage profile. Visualizing how much energy comes from the sun and is being consumed by the users can also be a good demonstration for the possibilities of solar power.

POC21: One last question: why open source?

LV: First of all, because it’s cool. There are so many ideas worth spreading and it feels good to be a part of this sharing process. After all, it’s important to understand that what we are doing is no rocket science. We make things from ordinary materials, that we simply put together in a different way. Making this ideas public and giving people the power to know that it is possible for everyone to do something for a more sustainable future is important for us.

We at POC21 are very excited to see SunZilla and the rest of our projects further develop during the camp. The getting real, folks! #letsgo