While conducting preliminary research for the project, Grouphug founder Krystal Persaud interviewed 100 New Yorkers and found that many of them had misconceptions about solar power. Wanting to erase the stigmas about solar panels being an eyesore and only available to people with a certain type of home, Persaud set out to integrate more industrial design into solar technology.
“At Grouphug, our mission is to change the perception that renewable energy is a boring utility purchased by the most privileged,” Persaud explained on the company blog. “The technology itself can be designed to be more relatable, have a personality and be fun.”
With a team of NYSCI “Explainers,” students and an electrical engineer, the Solar Cat project was brought to life. The 140-watt cat-shaped solar panel is mounted to the window at the New York Hall of Science, harnessing the sun’s rays to power an adjacent interactive pedestal with educational facts about sustainable power.
Flipping a switch on the solar panel can send real energy into a model home, and a pair of USB ports can be used to charge a visitor’s phone, all using the power harnessed by Solar Cat. Adding an extra educational aspect, the cells that make up the cat are made of transparent plastic, meaning that visitors can see the different components inside unobstructed.
Grouphug isn’t stopping with Solar Cat. The company has even more plans for projects focused on sustainable design. Combining solar panels with a consumer’s personal interests (such as cats) will hopefully inspire more citizens, in New York and otherwise, that renewable energy isn’t just for the affluent or tech-savvy. The company also hopes to show that solar technology doesn’t just have the power to harvest the sun’s energy but also the power to make people smile.