A man's home, they say, is his castle. It also can give you insight into his mind. We drove out to Lee Bristol's home (almost not making it because of an unexpected road block) expecting a routine interview about solar power. He is, after all, a co-founder of Standard Solar, a seven-year-old company that engineers, designs, and builds solar electric solutions for homes and commercial concerns.
It turned out to be anything but. We pulled into Bristol's driveway on a sunny warm fall day and immediately noticed two men standing on the roof. One was waving at us the other was filming us. "Come on up in the back!" came the cry from on high.
We walked around the house, with high-pitched A-frame design, and we noticed a set of homemade stairs jutting up from the back deck all the way up the steeply slanting roof. The stairs ended in one of the most interesting rooftop deck designs I've ever seen: He actually has fashioned a deck, perhaps 10 by 20 feet just behind the peak of the roof, overlooking lush farmland and his solar panels.
We came to find out that that design was evidence of Bristol's unique career path and approach to technology -- fascinating and unconventional.
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To keep up with our Chevy Volt coverage, go to Drive for Innovation and follow the cross-country journey of EE Times' EE Life editorial director, Brian Fuller. On his trip, sponsored by Avnet Express, Fuller is driving a Volt across America to interview engineers.
Thanks, Beth, that's a really neat story. Interesting that the Fibonacci Sequence, which appears so many places in nature like galaxy spirals and the nautilus shell, also governs how trees collect solar energy. I wonder how many other system designs could be improved by applying the math?
It's interesting to see how the solar/photovoltaic industry is evolved both on the macro and micro scale. You have a lot of large companies involved, which makes sense because panel production is expensive and also you need economies of scale. Further, you have a lot of high-flying startups (qv. Solyndra) -- an arena where we're already seeing a shakeout, I might add. Here, with Lee, I think what we're seeing is another side of the industry, a small-to-mid scale niche where we will see a lot of players, perhaps because the end-user market is far from monolithic.
Love the fact that Lee Bristol got into solar panels as a career change after a long-running stint as an IT consultant. Just goes to prove that with the right enthusiasm and dedication, there are countless possibilities to shift gears mid-career.
Coincidently, I just read something this morning about a solar panel entrepreneur that will likely give Bristol and others in the industry a run for the money--that is, when he finally grows up, graduates college, and makes his mark. This 13-year old came up with a method for arranging solar panels based on the arrangement of tree branches and using a mathematical method called the Fibonacci Sequence. The youth recently won the Young Naturalist award from the American Museum of History in New York. He claims his method is 20% to 50% more efficient than traditional solar arrays, and some scientists say he might be on to something.