Well, the roll out of our first public installation did not go as we envisioned it. It proved to be a week of the lowest lows and the highest highs for us at Solar Roadways. We are still feeling badly about letting everyone down: The City of Sandpoint, whose officials have been nothing but wonderful to us, the citizens who have supported us, those of you who traveled to Sandpoint to see the unveiling and everyone watching from afar.
First, we missed the Friday unveiling time due to the unexpectedly long time our laminating machine was taking with 30 panels inside for the first time. Then we disappointed you all again when we ran into problems on Saturday with the sand base and were not able to get all of the panels in by 1:00. We decided a “Sneak Preview” was the best option at that point. We had only some of the panels in and only 3 lit up. Fortunately, you all agreed with our choice at that juncture, when I posted about it later. And 20/20 hindsight confirmed that if we had tried to get all of the panels in before showing you – you all would have waited a very long time.
But the worst thing of all, was having to explain that we had learned that two components of our lamination machine had malfunctioned during the process (we didn’t know until it was over) which caused erratically different conditions across the panels. Some had ruined solar cells, some had ruined LED lights and heating elements were disabled. Of course, we’ll replace all of the panels at our expense, and we are already ordering new materials.
As we’ve been recovering, we’ve also been thinking about the current political season as it relates to this chapter in our journey. We are continually dismayed at the unwillingness of politicians to take responsibility for mistakes or to be honest and forthcoming. Even their surrogates tell us how the obvious mistake we see was really fine and wonderful, insulting our intelligence and leaving us shaking our heads.
We want to do the opposite. Honesty has always been a core value for us. We value each of you who have supported us and we try to treat you as we like to be treated. We would want to know the whole story, so we offered to do an interview with our local paper, explaining exactly what went wrong.
You can read the article now and then we’ll share a few more thoughts:
There are two important lessons for us in this experience:
1. We thought that we had to set a date so that the press and all of you could make it to Sandpoint to see the Unveiling Ceremony. When we set the date, we had plenty of cushion to get the panels ready. But we underestimated how long it would take to go over each panel exceedingly carefully to make sure it was perfect. Now we see that our naivety was at play as we’d never had an Unveiling Ceremony or done a Press Conference ever before. We know now that there is another option. Next time we’ll have a “soft opening”, making sure all is working properly and only then will we set dates for ceremonies. It’s ironic that what led to this error was our desire to please people; and in trying to please you all, we inadvertently let you down.
2. Now that we’ve had some sleep and had time to reassess the whole experience, we see that we made a huge mistake in trusting that the lamination machine would be able to handle 30 panels all at once. We assessed only a slight risk and that was again probably colored by our desire to please everyone.
The good news is we won’t make those mistakes again.
More good news is that we’ve already learned some things from this pilot. Scott will be writing a blog about that soon.
Meanwhile, we hope you all are enjoying the partially working panels in person or with the webcam. The naysayers are of course trying to “spin” a narrative that we are having problems in all areas, rather than everything stemming from a problem with one piece of equipment. We haven’t begun to show you what the panels can do. We just had time to very quickly throw up some LED patterns and they are on a low setting which is why it’s hard to see them on the webcam in the daytime. The naysayers are really having a field day with that one, but we’ll set things straight soon enough!
You supporters have been so gracious and understanding that we have felt overwhelmed with gratitude. We weren’t sure if people realized that the whole point of pilot projects is to bring out any problems or glitches with the manufacturing process and the product so that needed improvements can be made prior to mass manufacturing.
But so many in person and on social media conveyed just that in response to our “Bad News” post. Here’s a sampling:
“This is the whole point of pilot projects. Find potential setbacks and delays on a small scale so they can be fixed before going big scale.”
“No one said it would be easy to save the planet. Thanks for your hard work!”
“You can't have a visionary and revolutionary product that could change the face of history without its own set of delays and issues. So...good news.”
We always say that we have the best supporters in the world! That feeling of gratitude is still with us every day, combined with an anxious desire to get the replacement panels made and installed so we can show you how the installation is really supposed to be.