August 2008

We’ve had a busy summer working to fully fund our 2010 Alternative Field Trip programs and launch the new Solar Waffle Works program. Yep, the name changed from Solar Transition Cafe to Solar Waffle Works. It just sounds better doesn’t it? The food cart is coming along and although it takes fooooooreeeeeveeer to get donations approved, if you’re tenacious like a pit-bull and willing to wait, it seems like they eventually come through. We’re finding that nothing moves quickly in the non-profit world. So far, we’ve had a tough time bringing in more  individual donations through the newsletter and the website, so we’ll be looking to explore alternative fundraising paths like special events.

I’m also excited to announce the latest addition to our board of directors. I met Sara Hope Smith in 2006 when we rode down to San Antonio, Texas in the BioTrekker to attend the National Biodiesel Conference and the Sustainable Biodiesel Summit, which Sara Hope organizes. She has a ton of creativity, an amazing amount of enthusiasm for renewable energy and a ton of technical know-how. She’s the one who convinced me to push ahead and get back on the road when we were experiencing our first mysterious biodiesel technical issues. Sara Hope is currently an Energy Analyst for the Oregon Department of Energy and the co-founder of the Biofuels Oasis in Berkeley, California. Thanks for coming aboard Sara Hope!

If you’re in Portland, look for the SolTrekker renewable energy RV at the Muddy Boot Festival in Southeast Portland on September 12-13. And then, starting in October, look for us at local schools! I’m really excited to distribute plans and materials for small solar generators in 2010. I think it’s an awesome way to get renewable energy systems to low income families and to show people that solar power is scale-able and can be built for under $400. C’mon, less than some flat screens out there!

Have a great summer’s end and autumn beginning.

-Ty

Grants and Fundraising Manager

Details
At this point, our organization has yet to apply for grants, but we feel that we have very solid opportunities to secure grants in the future with our track record of education and innovation in the renewable energy and green building field. Ninety percent of the focus of this position will be targeted at assisting in the launch of a grant solicitation program and eventually running it. The SolTrekker grant and fundraising manager will be asked to put us in the best possible position to receive grants by researching current grant opportunities, crafting grant outlines and advising the executive director on activities that will be most effective in obtaining grants. The secondary project for this position will be to seek partnerships, sponsorships and material donations from other organizations and companies in order to continue and grow our educational programs, as well as to expand and improve our small fleet of mobile sustainability showrooms. We are also exploring the possibility of creating a small fundraising team of interns staffed from local colleges, and we the manager would be asked to participate in this project if it is initiated.

Time Commitment
We expect that it will take six to eight hours per week to perform this position at a functioning level, and we have to warn candidates that it could get addicting and they might find themselves spending more time than that. We know that most candidates will already have full-time or part-time employment, but please be willing to spend at least six hours a week on this, which will mean giving a few hours on a weekend here or there.

All managers will be invited to attend an hour-long SolTrekker board meeting once every two months in North Portland, although we can rotate locations to accommodate. Attendance would be helpful but not mandatory. The next scheduled meeting is April 1 at 6:30 pm.

Skills
As with all our manager positions, the person for this position will be a self-starter with a great passion for sustainability and renewable energy. Ideally this position would be filled by someone who has experience research grants, crafting grant proposals and in other types of fundraising. General knowledge of green building, sustainable practices and education would also be ideal.

Knowledge of grants for education in renewable education and green building is a big plus. We would like this manager to be someone who is comfortable making presentations or calling up people they haven’t met before and proposing partnerships.

Compensation
This position is offered on part-time, commission basis. We are offering the commission as a bonus to motivate qualified candidates to apply instead of making this a completely volunteer position. Our long-term goal (two to four years) for this position is that it will eventually provide a full-time living wage as we build our business and secure grants.

The grant and fundraising manager will receive an eight percent commission from the total of each grant they research and assist in obtaining. They will also receive a $500 bonus for any single grant greater than $7,500.

Plus, they’ll receive the perks of working on a fun project with a great team in the fulfilling and worthwhile pursuit of creating a more sustainable culture. That and traveling in a sweet eco-ride to great events like festivals and fairs.

Send resumes to soltrekker.outreach@gmail.com or contact Ty at 541-654-1799 for more info.

Among our latest activities is making a suggestion on the Obama administration change.gov. Please see our posting and vote for it if you think it’s something that the administration should consider. Click here for the link.

And make your own suggestions as well! It seems like there aren’t a lot of specific ideas being proposed, so if you have one that is even half-way thought-out, it probably has a good shot at getting noticed.

The SolTrekker team has somehow managed to stay really busy even after an oath to slow down a little for the holidays. In addition to the constant upgrades and maintenance on the existing SolTrekker RV, we have started one community based project in the Pacific Northwest and are soon to announce a second very exciting joint project with Portland Public School’s Community Transition Program.

But first, let’s talk about the project already underway. In addition to beginning projects to help other RVers build their own green RVs, we are starting a solar panel buyer cooperative for both solar hot water and solar electric systems. This will be modeled off the success of groups in Austria and California.

If you aren’t familiar with the idea, it’s pretty simple: organize a large group of homeowners who are interested in adding solar power to their homes and wait until you have somewhere around 100-plus willing participants. Then use that collective buying power to get solar manufacturers and installers to give you wholesale bids. The bidders with the best combination of quality and low cost win. It’s a great way to get solar power installed for somewhere between 25 to 50 percent lower than retail. If you are a homeowner or RVer in the Oregon/Washington area (especially Portland) and would be interested, please contact us for more information. We will also be making a presentation on the buyer’s cooperative at the Everything Green Expo at the Portland Expo Center on February 14-15. Admission is free.

Apparently, Winnebago is pondering the idea of a motorhome with a diesel electric hybrid powertrain. It hardly seems like a “seven percent” increase in fuel efficiency would be worth the added expense, but it’s nice to see them moving in the right direction. I’d think that getting the vehicle a bit lighter and more aerodynamic would help get that mpg increase higher.

We were recently contacted by Larry Webster, a friend of a friend who is extending an offer to folks in Portland, Oregon, especially those who are excited about the car of the future, the electric vehicle. Larry is the owner of Webster EV near Sacramento, CA, a start-up company breaking into the electric vehicle market by converting Toyota Scions into all electric vehicles, dubbed Webster Electrons. The Electrons have a range of 150 miles on one charge and have better power and acceleration than the original gas powered Scions.

Larry is looking for electric vehicle enthusiasts in the Portland area to participate in their “beta car” program. The person who is selected as a participant will purchase an Electron and, in exchange for becoming a Webster EV advocate, will receive a significant amount of stock in Webster EV. For pricing and more details, please contact Larry at info@websterev.com or visit http://www.websterev.com.img1895

After three great fall shows we’re taking a break from touring and getting back to planning the next steps for our little non-profit. One direction we’re heading to become financially sustainable is to draw on our experience building the SolTrekker to begin building more green RVs for others. We are putting together cost estimates and putting together a workspace that will be more suitable for commercial production. Although we aren’t able to immediately begin builds for others, if you’re interested in having a green RV built for you (or having your existing vehicle retrofit) please contact us (ty at soltrekker dot org) to begin the dialogue and get a very initial cost estimate. Our goal is to begin production within 12 to 14 months.

The Portland Build it Green! Home Tour was a great time, and our only regret is that we didn’t have time to check out the other awesome homes on the tour. This event was focused around education and brought out a really knowledgeable and engaging crowd. It’s really inspiring to know that there’s so many passionate and empowered people out there looking to put more of an emphasis on renewable energy in their own lives and community. Thank you to everyone who put the event together, especially EcoHaus and the Portland Office of Sustainable Development.

So we went to our first gig at the Portland Fall RV and Van Show, and although we were about 80 percent finished, sometimes you just have to get the ball rolling. So our ball is definitely doing that. Allison, Joe and I have been working pretty constantly for the last three months just getting all the materials and building the SolTrekker prototype, so we haven’t focused too much on other things like the website, the blog, a social life … you know, the small stuff. Now that things are just about finished, we’ll be able to get a little more balance.

The show was good, and the people were a lot of fun. We were asked a lot about whether we’ll make other SolTrekkers that will be for sale, or what we would charge to turn normal RVs into SolTrekker-type rigs. I guess you never know where something will lead.

The next show is the Portland “Build it Green” Home Tour, on Saturday, September 20. We will be a stop on the tour and an exhibit at the information fair at EcoHaus in Portland from 3:00 to 7:30. There will be live music and beverages, so if you’re here, and you’re able, we’d love to see you.

Stay tuned for more updates this fall and winter. Our plan is to stay put, finish out the trim details to 100 percent, get the website in better shape and then fire up the school presentations next spring, as well as a summer tour following that. Thanks to everyone who helped out with the materials, labor and service on the build.