The idea

‘I don't own my house, so I can't get solar panels. I live in an apartment in Brooklyn, and I was thinking that I should probably start using solar power – it seems like something that everybody should do, if they can afford it. I can't put panels on the roof of my building so, instead, I thought about what else I could do. Since college, I've been into environmentalism and sustainability, and I started thinking about how many people's first foray into sustainability is through things like tote bags, reusable water bottles or stainless steel straws. All of those things are really wonderful but, when you actually look at the objective drivers of climate change, fossil fuels and energy production are right at the top – so, I wanted to try to do something bigger.’ 


‘I was into electronics, and I know how to design stuff [Krystal's previous job was head of product design at educational toy company LittleBits]. So, I went online and started buying parts and I watched YouTube videos to try to figure out how to make a solar panel. I wanted to learn as much about solar energy as I could. So, I called up any friend who had anything remotely to do with solar and talked to them. And, at the end of the day, what I realized was that solar needs only sunlight. It doesn't have to be on your roof, it doesn't have to be outside. You literally just need sun. So, I was looking around and thought: I have windows, why not try there?’


‘I made a really crude first prototype. I taped it to my window and it kind of worked. From there, I spent six months making other prototypes until I got to where I thought it worked and looked cool – then I started telling friends about it. We've made a lot of small changes that might not be obvious to the naked eye – 15 to 20 over the course of two years. For example, we had uncoated screws that we removed because they made a scratchy sound on windows. We also tested a bunch of different shapes. People like the rectangle shape the most, because they want their friends to come over and recognize that it's a solar panel.’

First sales

‘At the start, I got together enough materials to make the first 10 products. My husband and I stayed up all night putting them together, because we didn't know what we were doing. Then we put them in the most basic white boxes and used my printer at home for the manuals. I got a table at a fair at [co-working space] WeWork. People would come and ask, “What is this?” and I'd explain it's this new window solar charger. The first person who wanted to buy one, I turned away, because I was so scared. Then my husband sold one for $100. That was a crazy moment. If someone is willing to pay for your prototype, then you know you're on to something.’ 


‘Even though we didn't make money on the first few versions, I wanted to charge from the offset so that we could cover some of the costs. I've worked with a lot of electronics factories, so I know that, in order to do a manufacturing run, you need a minimum order quantity of 500 to 1,000 units. If the order is smaller than that, factories won't work with you. That meant I needed at least $40,000, which is money I don't have – so, a [crowdfunding campaign on] Kickstarter seemed like something that could help fund it. With the help of Kickstarter and our pitch, which we tried to keep as simple as possible, we were able to raise $70,000 from [around] 500 people.’


‘The materials are sourced from just about everywhere. Unfortunately, there are no solar cell manufacturers in the US. This is something that I'm happy to tell everyone. There are absolutely none. I've called everywhere and I've tried everything – and it's a larger policy issue that the country is dealing with. So, if you want solar cells, you basically have to work with a country in Asia. So, to source our solar cells, we work with a company called SunPower, which is a really big solar company. And we source all of the bamboo and the cotton cord from around where our contract manufacturer is based, in China.’ 

A version of this article was first published in Courier issue 49, September/October 2022. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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