The famous solar airship Gifford at the DC Science Fair 1974
Sundial Solar has a long history that started when I (Jon) was a young science and technology geek in the late 1960’s. While my older friends were just getting the Hippie Era groove on, I was pestering my dad to bring home more reject solar cells from Goddard Space Flight Center outside DC. I was completely enthralled by the idea one could create electricity simply by shinning sunlight onto little 1″x1″ bluish-gray wafers. Things got carried away, as oft they will in a 12 year old’s world, and the “Solar Kid” became a nickname. I soldiered dozens of cells together in small arrays to power little DC motors, tiny fans, and model train lights around the house. I even made my own solar cells from a kit once produced by Bell Labs, the original inventors. It was all so much magic,
My solar passion carried on into high school, although I kept the nickname under wraps. My younger brother Bill was in the same school and we won the science fair with a solar-powered airship design. We actually made a working radio-controlled dirigible -called the Gifford – powered by solar cells. To see that thing flying in the school auditorium blew people’s mind! We went on to the DC Science Fair and flew it up and down the halls, thrilling the kids and disrupting classes. When the big brass from the military showed up for their part of the judging, we won top honors from the Naval Surface Weapons Lab. Now, decades later, I read recently that Germany is planning to build a full-scale airship with electric motors powered by, guess what? – solar cells!
Jimmy Carter’s solar panels on the White House 1979
The Solar Kid began college in the Carter years. I enrolled in a very cool new engineering program at the University of Maryland called Alternative Technologies. Shortly after that solar panels were installed on the White House. It was the early dawn of the solar era. In those early years, my classmates and I designed and built solar pumps that got shipped off to Peace Corps workers in Africa. It was gratifying work especially while getting college credit for it.
Alas, only a couple years later, Reagan was in, Carter was out, and the solar panels came off the White House faster than you could say “No way!”. Program funding for Alt-Tech quickly became extinct. As a result, the University never graduated any students in Alternative Technologies and I ended up getting my BS degree in Engineering Geology. After graduation I signed up with Twin cities-based Schmidt and Associates, a mechanical engineering firm. I spent several great years designing and installing building mechanical systems.
In 1999 Julie and I moved to Florida. There I worked for Windemere Creative, a design/build firm near Ocala. At the time, Florida was just launching a solar revolution and the state was supporting solar installations small and large. I quickly became the solar “go-to guy”. Windemere closed down in 2006, just before the real estate bust. That’s when I partnered with Hal and we launched Sundial Solar Consultants, servicing clients across the country. Soon after, the state of Minnesota woke up to solar and Jules and I moved back to Minneapolis. Sundial Solar quickly became a leading provider of turn-key solar solutions in the Upper Midwest.
Our team now consists of 12 trained and motivated staff persons that are ready and willing to help you with all your solar needs.