This Megafounder page is the first step on a journey. It starts with a book, and ends with a solar energy system for remote communities in South Asia and Africa.
My name is Michael Boxwell, innovator and best-selling author of eco-technology books. I’ve worked on dozens of solar projects, from solar power gadgets to a solar farm for villages in Ethiopia. My books are used by Universities around the world and my ideas have been used by the White House to inform their current Renewable Energy strategy.
Renewable energies such as solar, wind and hydropower will transform our world. Thanks to the research and development of the past two decades, they now genuinely have the potential to replace fossil fuels in the not too-distant future.
Yet I have become increasingly concerned about the quality of some of the Renewable Energy systems that have been produced. Badly designed systems and products that either don’t work at all, or don’t deliver on their promises. Solar panels on houses constantly shaded by trees. Wind turbines that are wrongly sited and produce no energy at all. There are countless solar and wind-powered gadgets and devices on the market that just don’t work.
Large or small, green technology that does not work is a triple negative. It disincentives people who buy the systems. It discourages friends and families who see it does not work. Worst of all, it makes it all too easy for sceptics to ridicule renewable technologies. This has a huge impact on public opinion, which is picked up in the media, influences politicians and reduces the credibility of the entire industry. It’s time to make a change.
Like all changes, we start small, work to our strengths and build momentum. Last year, I took over Greenstream Publishing, a company that specialises in books on environmental technology. I’ve now brought together a team of Renewable Energy experts, writers and software engineers.
With your help, we are going to create books, websites and renewable energy apps that are accessible for everyone. We’ll show what renewable energy is, how it can be used, how to recognise a great system from a bad one and to help ensure every renewable energy system reaches its potential.
We want to inspire people to do great things. To inspire students to take up renewable energy engineering as a career. To inspire architects and designers to create exciting new products that make a difference. To encourage home owners and farmers to install their own systems. And to excite DIY enthusiasts who want to build their own systems from scratch.
We’re working with NASA to provide us with climate information, including solar radiation and wind speed data for the whole world. Fancy putting up a wind turbine or a solar array? We’ll have the data for your location so you can see how effective your system can be, and we’ll package it so that it’s accessible and easy to read.
Our first product is a book, Introducing Renewable Energy, launching this summer. It’s written by Paul Matthews, a leading renewable energy engineer. The book has been written and is currently being proof-read and edited. It’s over 200 pages in full-colour with photographs, diagrams and clearly written text. It uses micro-power projects as examples of how renewable energy systems work and includes two example projects, erecting a tiny wind turbine on an off-grid site and mounting solar panels on a recreational vehicle. Readers who want to install their own tiny system will have enough information from this book to be able to tackle their own small renewable energy project. For bigger requirements, readers will have enough information to understand the technology, assess their location and be able to talk to the experts with confidence.
Next, we’ll launch a new website showing how to create renewable energy systems that work. We’ll include online apps, calculators and project analysis tools to allow you to assess the suitability of your location for wind, solar or hydropower.
Then we’ll be launching a phone app for Android and iPhone that makes the online calculators totally mobile. Take your phone with you and the system will be able to calculate the likely power output and performance of a renewable energy system at the touch of a few buttons.
We’ll launch two more books at the end of the year, a wind turbine handbook and an updated edition of my Solar Electricity Handbook, currently the best-selling solar book in the world.
But our final goal is much bigger. Royalties of the book Introducing Renewable Energy are going to be used to develop a new household solar energy system for use in third world countries. With a target price of just $10, our solar energy system will bring electrical lighting and power into the reach of people in South Asia and Africa for the first time.
We’ve got a long journey ahead of us. Like all long journeys, it starts with the first steps. Those steps are to create the first book, release the online web tools and launch our mobile app. That’s what we’re asking from Megafounder’s to help us with today.
Back our campaign and you’ll help us in our first steps, inspiring people to create useful, working renewable energy systems and, ultimately, help us bring electrical power to some of the 1.3 billion people who don’t have access to electricity today.
Michael Boxwell: Innovator and designer, small solar systems expert, author of The Solar Electricity Handbook and Managing Director of Greenstream Publishing. Responsible for the overall project management. Michael will also be writing one of the books and some of the software development.
Kelly Lawrence: Publishing and Marketing Manager for Greenstream Publishing, Kelly is also a best-selling author in her own right. Her responsibilities are to ensure the books are produced on time and get into the distribution channel. She is also responsible for our ongoing marketing campaign.
Paul Matthews: Renewable energy expert, specialising in wind turbine engineering and small scale renewables. Paul is the author of our forthcoming book, Introducing Renewable Energy and is currently writing the Wind Turbine Handbook, which will be published at the end of this year.
Dr. Sheila Glasbey: Researcher and author. Whilst Sheila's main role of copy-editing and proof-reading may sound mundane, Sheila's research background helps us ensure that our books are clearly written and factually correct, reducing the risk of misinterpretation.
Amritpal Binning: Director of Greenstream Publishing, handling much of the day-to-day running of the business.
How we will use the money
The money is to be used to fund the software development for our apps, which will be both web and mobile based. We see these apps as one of the cornerstones for our project. With a few clicks of a mouse, they will allow users to evaluate the potential for their own solar, wind or hydropower project, wherever they live in the world, and whether or not they buy a book from us.
Here is a short video that shows a mock-up of one of our calculators, showing our proposed wind turbine calculator:
Five years ago, Greenstream Publishing created an original set of web-based tools specifically for solar power. Today, these tools are used by around 150,000 people per year around the world to help them evaluate solar power for themselves. Despite their popularity, these tools are old, slow, unwieldy and out of date and need to be revamped.
With your help, we'll be able to redevelop the existing toolkit and create new tools for wind and hydro that expand their use and make them even better. As well as detailed textual information, we'll be using graphics, pictures, animations, charts and tables that clearly lay out the information in a way that is easy to read and understand. Users will have the opportunity to download a detailed custom report showing the potential for a renewable energy system at their location.
What about the household solar energy system for South Asia and Africa?
We are not planning for this Kickstarter campaign to pay for the development of the household solar energy system. However, if we exceed our targets, the additional money raised will be used to bring forward development of the household solar energy system. Depending on how much we raise, this will help us commence the project in late September, instead of delaying the start until early next year. We'll post updates on our progress on our solar energy system, giving backers exclusive access to how we are progressing and to see early prototypes of our work before the rest of the world.