Frequently Asked Questions
Unfortunately, it will not save you any money on your power bill. But it does not increase your utility bill either. The only cost for the first year is the cost of the device itself. Then it will cost something in the range of $20/year for additional years of solar upgrades.
The fact is, even though prices have come down considerably, solar generation equipment is still quite expensive, and all the cost is paid up front, which is also one reason it’s out of reach for many people. We have worked hard to come up with a way anyone can afford to use at least some solar energy. By letting you consume solar as a service, we’ve arranged to have others pay for the expensive infrastructure, so you just pay a little bit extra to get solar.
SunPort is about using solar energy as a lifestyle choice. It's a way to personally join the solar movement and help drive solar forward, even if you can't put solar on your own roof. If you can put solar panels on your roof, you can save money (once you pay for the system) and I encourage you to do so.
We're focused on people who care but have not had a way to participate. The solar we support flows through the grid and it doesn't cost much or have big commitments involved. For many people this is the only sort of solar that can make sense today. If that's you, please back our campaign.Last updated:
No. You pay your utility for the electricity, which is just generic energy. SunPort adds a very minor solar cost, which is not for energy but for certified information that attributes your energy use to a solar source. If you skip the information, you can still get energy but it won’t be specifically linked to solar. The information allows what we call a solar upgrade. Only with this combination of generic energy and certified information can energy from the grid to be identified as renewable energy.
SunPort's system runs on Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (S-RECs) which are produced from solar generation equipment connected to the grid. When the solar power is metered and released into the grid, the meter reports how much energy was released and that information gets certified into an S-REC. The energy that went into the grid becomes generic energy, indistinguishable and untrackable within the grid itself. The S-REC is like a "claim-check" for solar. Whoever matches and consumes the S-REC with grid energy is said to be consuming solar energy.
Some utilities sell renewable energy which may seem to be only paying once for electricity, as compared to SunPort. To do this, they still use RECs and you pay for them, even if they don’t show up as a separate charge on the power bill. Whether you get solar as a bundled product from your utility or as an upgrade from SunPort, both approaches rely on S-RECs which help pay to support solar generation, which is more expensive than other (non-renewable) forms of generation. By paying for a solar upgrade, you help create more demand for solar energy.Last updated:
We only "track" solar where it goes in and where it comes out of the grid. It is impossible to track electrons in the grid and they don't "flow", they actually just vibrate.
The way we track solar is much like your bank tracks your money. They don't worry about which bills came from whom, they just track what comes in and goes out. It's all about the accounting. And just like with the bank, great care is taken in making sure that everything flowing through the system is authentic.
When solar goes into the grid, a solar credit (S-REC) is created that documents what went in. This is a third-party certified commodity that is completely separate from the energy itself. When you take solar out, the solar credit gets consumed by you, along with the the matched electrical energy. The energy "flow" in the grid doesn't actually figure into the equation at all.
This may seem magical, but it is the way the entire grid-based renewable energy system works (we didn't invent it - see the EPA video on our page). We just made the system accessible to you. That's what SunPort does - it lets you get real solar energy easily and affordably without owning the panels, the same way big companies have for years.Last updated:
Obviously, SunPort is very different from solar panels on your roof, in terms of hardware, cost and benefits. Putting solar on your own roof is fairly complicated and costly. Even if you get it with a no money down lease, you still need good credit and you make a big commitment. Of course, there’s also a financial return, which make the challenges worth taking on for many people. What most people don’t realize is that usually, people with solar on their roof don’t actually use solar energy -- they just produce it and sell it to the utility.
Unless they keep their S-RECs and forego what their utility pays to get them, they only produce the solar energy. In most cases, homeowners with solar just sell their S-RECs to help make the economics of solar work better for their budget. They can’t legitimately claim to be a consumer of solar, if they’re selling the right to claim use of solar to someone else, which is what an S-REC is.
SunPort is like the opposite side of the coin, compared to panels on the roof. SunPort doesn’t cost much or take much commitment; solar on the roof does. SunPort doesn’t have any solar panels at all; solar on the roof is entirely about owning panels. SunPort consumes S-RECs and pays for them; solar on the roof produces S-RECs and gets paid for them. SunPort lets you use solar energy; solar on the roof lets someone else use it. SunPort costs very little but doesn’t save you money, solar on the roof is very expensive but pays a return.
There’s a place for both versions of solar, each suited to different people and circumstances. SunPort allows anyone to access real solar energy, anywhere, without owning panels or even a roof. SunPort helps create more demand for solar and can help us get more of it. Owning a SunPort is different than owning solar panels, but either can be a good choice. Just don’t keep waiting to join the solar revolution.Last updated:
The Dev Club is just people who will get a beta SunPort and early releases of the app, to give us feedback on their user experience and the app's user interface. There is no requirement to know anything about coding to join. In fact, we want plenty of people who are not techies to join the Dev Club so we know how regular people react to the app.
There's nothing too intense or mandatory involved, but we do want people who are genuinely willing to help with feedback on the app while it's under development. We expect to give the Dev Club more access to what's going on with our team and maybe do some conference calls from time-to-time. Mainly, we want Dev Club members just telling us what they like or don't like, what bugs are discovered, etc.
Of course, Dev Culb members also get a production SunPort when they're available, and an exclusive Dev Club T-shirt. Sorry, but it does not include a secret decoder ring!Last updated:
Each country has its own requirements in terms of safety testing and certification. This testing is quite costly and it typically needs to be done in order to comply with legal requirements, even before the first unit is sold. Since we're just a tiny startup, we can't afford to do testing for multiple countries all at once, especially without knowing how strong the demand for our product will be in those places. When we get market traction in the US, we hope to go after other countries as soon as we can.Last updated:
Yes, as long as you can plug into power and connect to the internet you can use SunPort. All our solar is presently generated in the continental USA however, so whatever locally generated electricity you use will be matched against real solar going into the US grid, even though those grids (probably) don't connect with each other. Although such use consumes real solar credits (S-RECs), a legal claim of using solar will probably not be recognized by the country you’re in.
We hope to source solar domestically for SunPort users everywhere in the future, but right now we’re focused on the US market. Each country has different testing and certification requirements too, which is very costly. Most other countries will also require a local power adapter, since SunPort is currently just built for a US-style, 120V three prong plug configuration.
For these reasons, we decided to focus on the US market first. Canada, Mexico and Japan are the next likely places to go, since they have the same plug style and voltage as the US. We want to be anywhere that people want to use solar, but we'll also need partners for most non-US markets. If you're interested in discussing your particular country, please back us for $2 now to get on our email list and then we can connect after the Kickstarter campaign is over.Last updated:
Right now we’re not prepared to commit how rapidly we can expand to other countries, even though we love the idea and want to do it as soon as possible. Because we’re a startup and we have limited resources, we need to selective about which challenges we take on and in what sequence. Our hope is that we can at least begin evaluating some pilot activities for another country late in 2015 or early in 2016, but we presently need to focus our attention to completing our Kickstarter campaign successfully and delivering on the commitments associated with it.Last updated:
SunPort is rated 1200 watts at 120 volts, which means the largest load allowable is 10 amps. Most electronics are substantially below this rating so they're no problem. The main items that could exceed this limit are devices or appliances with a medium or large sized motors like some power tools and /or that create heat, like a toaster oven. Some items like blow dryers can go either way, depending on the model and power setting. If you overload the SunPort, it will shut off to protect itself so you should be careful about plugging in something that could overload it and which would cause you trouble if it suddenly shut off.
It is fine to use a plug strip with a SunPort but you need to be careful not to overload it in this case. Also, some loads are variable and they may occasionally spike up, even if they are typically lower. Laser printers for example have a high current spike when they initially start up. For this reason, you should check what the total load of the items on the plug strip are. Also, the phone app is expected to allow you to read what the load is at any given moment, but the final functionality for this feature is still under development.Last updated:
It does take solar panels to be solar. You just don’t need to own them yourself and they don’t need to be on your roof. SunPort’s technology allows you to get real solar energy from real solar panels, any time you use electricity from the grid. SunPort solar does not directly save you money; rather it is a lifestyle choice, using solar as a service, easily and affordably. The point is to become a consumer of solar and creating more solar demand, which can help cause a tipping point for powering the whole grid with renewable energy.Last updated:
No, you can get solar energy any time you want. SunPort treats the grid like a huge solar reservoir. Solar energy pumps into the grid whenever the sun shines on the panels that generate our solar, so we always have new solar waiting in the grid, before you demand it. When you use solar, our SunPort technology keeps your power 100% matched against this actual solar production, regardless of time of day or weather conditions. The solar energy is only made during the day when the sun is shining, but you can create demand for solar, any time day or night and without any consideration to weather conditions.Last updated:
Absolutely! It is completely legitimate and authentic to claim you’re running on solar when you use SunJoules matched to power consumption. In fact, the underlying operating principle of our technology (consumption of RECs) is the only way to legally and legitimately claim use of any grid connected renewable energy. SunPort matches energy use against a true solar energy supply, in strict accordance with what the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires to legally claim use of solar energy.Last updated:
No, not precisely, but that’s because this question is based on a misinterpretation of how electricity works. Electrons convey energy, but they don’t get used up or normally even “flow” on an alternating current (AC) power grid. Energy flows instantly from one point to another, even though the electrons mainly just vibrate.
Once solar energy is in the grid, it’s completely indistinguishable from energy supplied by any other source. Because of this, there is no way to directly discern where an increment of power in the grid comes from, when it is used. Smart grid enabled tracking however, allows any source of grid energy (solar or otherwise) to be easily identified and tracked as it enters the grid. We use the SunPort platform to automate this tracking process and make sure your SunJoules always come from authentic and accurately measured solar production from real panels. That way, how the energy gets routed makes no difference, since your use is always matched to a verified solar source.
It’s kind of like how your bank tracks money in your account, without regard for what branch or ATM you use. When you get money from an ATM, the bank’s system matches the cash withdrawal back to your account. How a dollar bill arrived in the ATM or who had that bill before you doesn’t matter, as long as the linkage to your account works. The bank’s accounting system makes sure you always get your own money from the ATM, by always matching the ATM’s activity back to your account balance. In the same way, SunPort’s platform guarantees the power you use is real solar, by matching back to a real solar source.Last updated:
First, we guarantee our system is matching new solar energy in the grid through our SunPort technology, which tracks energy use and correlates it to your SunJoule™ account. Our system is auditable and recurring third-party audits will verify the solar matching claims. The US FTC regulates claims of renewable energy use in commerce, and we must comply with those regulations by law.
Second, the solar industry has practices and standards that ensure only genuine solar production can be claimed as solar. We provide solar in the form of SunJoule™ microcredits, which are created by a non-profit named ReChoice. They produce SunJoules in strict proportion to industry standardized bulk solar S-RECs obtained from reputable sources which are also certified by a third-party organization, independently validating the authenticity of the solar.
Finally, as we further develop our system and our phone app, we expect to add transparency features that give greater social and community visibility. The SunPort community will then be able to further verify the authenticity of our actions and claims, while easily tracking our collective impact as well.Last updated:
It is theoretically possible for SunPort to temporarily run out of SunJoules, though unlikely. SunPort gets SunJoules from a non-profit named ReChoice, which creates them based on its bulk acquisitions of third-party certified new solar (S-RECs), already fed to the grid. If demand for SunJoules were to spike dramatically, that demand could temporarily outrun the company’s reserve of SunJoules or even our resupply from ReChoice. For this reason, SunPort continually monitors its SunJoule supply and reserves, proactively acquiring more to make sure delivery platform keeps running smoothly.
SunPort works hard to stay out in front of the demand for SunJoules to prevent a supply crunch, but we also continually deplete solar as people use it. It is exceedingly improbable that SunPort could absorb enough solar to prevent ReChoice from creating more SunJoules, but we do want to tighten the supply. The whole point of SunPort is creating much more demand for solar energy, so more solar installations get built. If we deplete enough solar, the likely result is rising prices for solar energy, far in advance of complete unavailability. This sends a strong signal for developers to build more solar installations, thereby supplying even more solar energy into the increased demand.
Your immediate supply of SunJoules is based on what is loaded into your SunPort. Although SunPort always keeps new solar in the pipeline to assure ample supply when you need more, you can personally still run out of solar just by depleting your SunPort. Of course, if you do run out of SunJoules, it results in an interruption of your solar energy consumption, but not an interruption of electrical service.Last updated:
Yes, we have considered a WiFi version and we expect we will have one. We chose to start with a Bluetooth version because we wanted people to use their phones with it and we wanted to encourage use in public places.Last updated:
We love the idea of a USB charger version but we couldn’t offer it on our first model because it would have required a larger internal power supply, which would increase the size and cost of the SunPort. We considered doing it anyway but the added lead time it would cause was not justified, when we first need to prove the basic value proposition for consumers: being able to use solar energy easily anywhere without owning panels.Last updated:
We love the plug strip idea and this is probably one of the new SunPort versions we will add soonest. Many people want to be able to use SunPort for an office or an entertainment system, for which a plug strip is ideal. We are also looking at a conference room type plug/USB charge hub.Last updated:
This is under consideration but it may make more sense to handle some of these largest home type loads by simply doing a whole house product. Of course, if we were to directly address this application, it would make the most sense to create a suitable hardwired outlet rather than a plug-in product like SunPort. We will be talking with all our users in the days ahead to learn more about what applications you are most interested in.Last updated:
We love this application but it constitutes a completely separate product from the plug-in SunPort, with many different features and challenges. Of course, it can be done based on the same underlying technology and platform. We need to work out the right user experience and a way to make it integrate seamlessly with other elements of home control and automation. That said, this is a product we feel could merit our attention the soonest, since it could allow much larger impact for each user and it should a very cost efficient way to increase that impact. The upshot is that although this is one of the more attractive products on our list, it is also one of the more complex, so even if we begin our work immediately it could still take longer than some of the simpler products.Last updated:
This is one of our favorite ideas, although the EV market may still be a little less developed than we may need it to be, in order to pursue this application. With the grid presently powered 85% (on average) with non-renewables, EVs are mainly powered by non-renewable energy. We like to say it’s like they have really long tailpipe, but they still have emissions.
With a an EV charger product based on SunPort’s platform and technology, every EV using it would be a 100% solar powered vehicle. We are also interested in embedding our technology within EVs (through licensing arrangements) so the solar charging could be accomplished with any charger, regardless of where it is located or who owns it.Last updated:
22. Have you considered a duplex outlet product that could be just hard-wired into a wall receptacle?
Yes, we think this is an excellent product concept that could be useful both for new construction as well as retrofitting into some homes, offices, schools and hotels, etc. It does present several unique challenges as well, so we don’t expect this to be developed in the near-term.Last updated:
Solar is America’s most loved form of renewable energy, but also one of the smallest sectors. This makes it a good target for accelerating growth, since the popularity attracts interest and the relatively small size gives us a reasonable shot at impacting the market dynamics positively.
The underlying concept of SunPort could work with any form of renewable energy, but it needs to be proven useful before addressing less promising sectors than solar. The wind generation market is many times the size of solar and it has plenty of momentum, so it needs less help. Solar by contrast, is more expensive in cost vs. output and it has structural barriers in terms of utility acceptance, due to the popularity of residential rooftop solar.
Our view is that solar is arguably the most desirable form of non-dispatchable renewable energy, but the most bottled up in terms of market dynamics. We believe that if we’re able to break through the barriers that hold solar back, there could be a landslide of solar development. If we can trigger this, we’ll have plenty of opportunity to go after wind and other sectors of the market afterwards.Last updated:
Right now we are privately held and entirely self-funded, but we definitely expect to raise money as we grow. Depending on the path we take, it is at least possible that we might accept investments from the public, through an equity crowdfunding platform. Presently we cannot accept investments from unaccredited private individuals, however. We are open to considering investments from accredited angel investors and venture capital firms, so if that’s you, please back us (generously) and then send us a private message with more information.Last updated:
It is theoretically possible to get units like the SunPort made in the US but it would have been impossible for us to do so, since we don't have the financial resources to pay the development costs we would have incurred here. We did investigate this before we decided to look off shore.
Something like 80% of the world's consumer electronics presently come from the region of China were our factory is located, almost certainly including your mobile phone, your computer, etc. We needed to focus on proving a market and getting our company launched, rather than taking on the desirable but overwhelming challenge of helping fix the balance of trade problem the US faces. We have discussed how we might go about producing here in the US later when we have more resources, and if the opportunity presents itself in the future, we'd love to do it. We just don't want to get stuck on that issue.
By the way, the SunPort consumes 100% US made solar energy, harvested using panels located exclusively in the USA. Even if solar becomes available off shore, we expect to continue using domestic solar for all US customers.Last updated:
SunPort is tangible and visible, with a user experience and a way of interacting with others about green energy. Because SunPort is a plug-in device, you can easily choose when to use it and when not to, if you wish. Because SunPort has a subscription type program, you can use unlimited solar during the period, so you can consciously choose to maximize your use without changing the cost of your solar investment.
Typically utility programs have mainly wind power and you sign up at a certain level. You must contact the power company to change your plan. Probably the biggest difference is that you need to be the person paying the power bill in order to use a utility green power program. With SunPort, you can demand solar anywhere you can plug in.Last updated:
No, the charge cable is just a universal charging cable. We had them produced with the #PlugIntoSolar hashtag, to use with solar powered charging stations we have done for events and some public venues. The charge cable has a standard full-size USB male connector on one end and a micro-USB (Android style) on the other. It also has a captive adapter that allows the micro-USB end to adapted to fit an Apple Lightning-type receptacle on an iPhone or iPad. The adapter is not an Apple certified adapter however, so it is only suitable for charging and not for data transfer.
Just to be very clear, the present SunPort model does not have a USB charging outlet. The charging cable should be considered an unrelated promotional item and not for use with a SunPort per se. You will need your own USB charging converter or other 5 volt USB power source in order to use the charging cable. Of course, if you wish you can plug your USB charging converter into a SunPort so you're getting a solar charge, but that's up to you.
As a final comment, we do hope to have a USB charging-style SunPort in the future. It makes sense and it means that new SunPort model would eliminate the need to carry a separate USB charging converter. We did not do it with this model though, because doing so would have added to the size and caused delays.Last updated:
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