Version 1.0.2Released on March 13th, 2012
- New Full iOS 5.1 compatibility
- Fix Push notifications update & fixes
- New Added dashboard refresh button
- fix Various UI enhancements
SimplySolar is a solar panel alignment tool designed to increase the viability of solar energy in developing countries by replacing expensive solar tracking systems. The app helps people properly align solar panels using GPS coordinates and the date as input, and ultimately helps communities achieve a higher standard of living.
Check our article in the Calgary Herald!
Captures 30-40% more solar energy!
We are two young entrepreneurs who just graduated from high school and are passionate about changing the world. Both of us attend the University of Calgary so if you’re in town, please drop by and say hello!
Bruce, 18, is passionate about innovation, science, and social entrepreneurship, and is currently studying Honors Neuroscience at the University of Calgary under the inaugural Schulich Leader Scholarship.
Matt, 18, is passionate about technology, entrepreneurship, and startups, and is currently studying Engineering at the University of Calgary under the prestigious Schulich Entrepreneurial Scholarship.
The app works anywhere in the world, including remote regions where internet access is not available.
The app works for both regular solar panels and solar thermal heaters. Also, the app works equally well with large solar panels as it does with small solar panels.
In case the smart phone doesn't have a GPS sensor, the app has a manual mode where coordinates can be entered.
In case the solar panel doesn't have angle markings, our app uses the smartphone's accelerometer to indicate when the solar panel is fully aligned at the proper angle.
The schedule tool tells the user at what time the solar panel must be at what angle for the solar panel to capture more energy. This provides the benefits of a solar tracking system without the enormous expense.
The compass built in to the app helps align the solar panel with True North to have the calculated angles be effective with the sun's movement.
Our application will send push notifications on when to change the angle of the panel so that you get the most energy from the solar panel.
The app works on the low end smartphones that are widely available in developing countries.
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For general questions, bug reports or press inquires please fill out the form below.
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During the past two spring breaks, Bruce volunteered at an orphanage in Rongshui, China. On his first day there, he noticed that the children around him were shivering because the orphanage did not have adequate heating. The weather was so cold that it forced the orphans to sleep beside each other for body warmth. After spending a few days sleeping on a bamboo mat in the orphanage dorm, I knew I had to do something, but what could I do? I knew that I would go home after a week and that would be it. I knew that this wouldn’t be a good solution.
I realized that the solar heating panel on the roof of the orphanage could be moved to catch more of the sun's rays. More energy meant that the orphans would finally be warm during the rainy season. When the orphans left for school, I took a rickshaw ten kilometres to the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot and pulled out my laptop. After an hour of research, I found the best angle for the solar panel with an online program.
Using this angle as a guide, the orphans and I aligned the solar panel to face south. After awhile, I noticed that the dorm was warmer and that the hot water faucet finally worked!
When I came back to Calgary, I knew I wanted to create an internet free program that can calculate the optimal solar panel angle for this orphanage in Rongshui. With this program, the children would be able to use it to move their solar panel to stay warm and improve their living conditions. Right now, the solar panel is at an angle that is only good from March to early April. Thus, the orphanage needs to be able to calculate those angles anytime and anywhere without the Internet.
My Computer Science IB dossier was the perfect opportunity to create this program. Over a few weeks, with research and lots of lines of code, I had a working Java program that would print out the exact north/south and east/west angles for specific coordinates and a specific date, all without an internet connection: perfect for rural communities.
The only problem was that the program needed a laptop to run, and laptops are not as freely available as mobile phones are in remote communities. The obvious solution was to implement my algorithm into a mobile app so that it's easier to use. For that, I decided to approach Matt.
When Bruce first approached me, the thing I was excited most about was that there was someone else my age working on something cool and actually creating something of value.
Even though I had very little experience with making mobile apps, I decided I would do everything I could to bring the idea into life and agreed to work on the project. I immediately delved into Android tutorials and learned how to make Android apps out of pure necessity. About a week later, we had an app that took in coordinates, date, and time, ran the data through Bruce's algorithm, and output the two angles that aligned a solar panel directly with the sun for the location, date, and time provided. The app was very basic and ugly, but we were excited beyond anything I could describe. It was so cool to have the entire algorithm working on a smartphone. Bruce was especially excited to see his creation in the palm of his hand.
But we didn't stop there, we realized we could go further. Much further. We brainstormed for a bit and came up with the idea of using the phone's compass and accelerometer to help the users align their solar panels to the calculated angle in case their solar panel doesn't have markings or the solar panel is not on level ground. A few more days and we had that feature ready and working as well.
In the midst of working on the app, I stumbled on Eden Full, who is making really cheap solar trackers for developing countries. Basically, she was taking a hardware approach to the same problem we were tackling with a software approach, so I shot her an email, and we ended up having an awesome meet in August. And most importantly, she loved the app. :)
But something was missing. I couldn't pin point what it was. The app was only useful only for the time input by the user. Looking back at all the things I learned about startups and building products, I realized that the app wasn't truly useful. It displayed the angles for a certain time of day and that's it. That's when we came up with the idea for a schedule tool that would provide the users with angles to set the solar panel at certain times of the day, essentially allowing the solar panel to track the sun and capture a lot more energy.
As usual, the feature ended up being a much more complicated technical challenge than we first expected, but working through every obstacle, we were ecstatic when we got the feature to work properly. With the schedule tool feature added, the app is able to replace expensive solar tracking systems by providing the users with the angles to place their panels at throughout the day. Essentially, helping them manually track the sun.
Watch for more blog posts in the near future!
SimplySolar is designed to be as user friendly as possible. The start button pulls your coordinates from GPS satellites. These coordinates are fed through an algorithm that includes other variables such as the date. This produces an optimum angle, personalized for your location and time, that SimplySolar uses in its compass and angle tool to help you align your solar panel!
For a more detailed description, feel free to use the Contact feature on this website to ask us your questions!
Bruce and Matt have released this application for free in order to better reach the people who need it the most, namely rural and suburban communities in developing countries such as China and Africa. SimplySolar highly appreciates your support and hope that you choose to pay it forward by spreading the word to other people who can use this application.
Proper usage can increase energy gather from solar panels by up to 30-40%.
The GPS sensor has to connect with 3 or more GPS satellites to attain the phone's coordinates. On average this takes about a minute the first time, if it's taking longer, make sure that you're outside and there are no objects blocking the signal.
Yes! We’d highly appreciate it if you shoot us an email before you do though so we can get involved and help you get the most from your venture.
Shoot us an email by using the Contact tab of this website!