Resistance and Solar Invention
Solar engineer and inventor Patrick Sherwin is the founder of GoSun, an innovative solar appliances company advocating for cultural change in the transition to green energies.
Patrick Sherwin pins his environmental fervour on an incident from childhood. A small creek wound its way through his backyard, and Patrick had taken it upon himself to restore it.
Until a neighbour, an older boy, dumped motor oil in the creek, destroying the vibrant ecosystem he’d been cultivating–the fish, the amphibians–all gone.
For Sherwin, the event stands out in his mind–a testament to human ignorance. “Especially,” he says, “as we think about how to get us out of the mess we created.”
But there’s a bright spot for Sherwin in all this, literally the brightest spot in our galaxy: the sun.
An engineer and inventor, Patrick Sherwin leads GoSun, an innovative company producing portable solar-powered appliances–from solar ovens and coolers to water filtration systems and batteries. With 56 unique products, all developed by his passionate and dedicated team, they’ve crafted solar-powered systems that allow people to live off-grid, relying entirely on clean energy.
And all of these products stem from a solar grill Sherwin developed using a discarded evacuated water heater tube. As a solar panel advocate, Sherwin understood the sun's power but hadn’t fully grasped its daily application until he was using solar power to grill sausages. “I would go to events to get leads for solar rooftop installation,” he recounts. “We would grill hotdogs on our solar grills and pass them out to get some attention, and we realised there’s not enough people relating to the sun and what it can do for us. GoSun has become a door into the amazing conversation of solar energy.”
GoSun’s solar ovens rely on that same evacuated tube system first developed in Sherwin’s garage, utilising anodised aluminium reflectors to maximise solar energy. In fact, these solar ovens are so well-insulated that they even work in the freezing winter temperatures of the Northern latitudes. Because of this, GoSun’s products have proven immensely popular with outdoor enthusiasts. Recently, a sailor sent a photo of homemade sourdough bread to the company, showcasing its perfectly baked, golden crust from the deck of her boat.
"It's really hard to get human beings to change,” he says ruefully. “Even when your technology, [renewable energy] is superior in every way, it doesn’t matter. The cultural reality is thicker and stronger."
Yet, solar energy has even wider applications. During covid-19, GoSun released a water filtration and sanitation system which uses a nano filter (pioneered by the International Space Station) and a small USB-powered pump. Using only one-tenth of the water of a typical faucet, GoSun’s water filtration system can transform into a kitchen sink or shower in seconds.
However, one significant obstacle has complicated GoSun’s plans to distribute its technology to developing nations–humanity and its resistance to the unfamiliar.
“It's really hard to get human beings to change,” he says ruefully. “Even when your technology, [renewable energy] is superior in every way, it doesn’t matter. The cultural reality is thicker and stronger.”
He offers me a powerful visual. Imagine you’re a woman, he says, living in a village, earning only a few dollars a day. For hundreds of years, your family has cooked over an open fire, which requires hours spent foraging for firewood. And to make matters worse, cooking in an enclosed environment like this has caused health issues from smoke inhalation.
For reference, the average-sized cooking fire produces nearly 400 cigarettes’ worth of smoke in only one hour; experts estimate that cooking fires affect the health of almost 4 billion people worldwide.
“And I show up with this solar oven that could break that cycle. Yet, it’s so nuanced for you to be the first to use it, to be the first to step aside from what all your neighbours are doing.” Sherwin looks off to the side of the camera for a moment. “It takes a lot of conviction to make that change.”
And yet, despite these challenges, GoSun has found a solution. Today, GoSun runs pilot programs in countries around the world, donating products and enlisting the help of local entrepreneurs who can work with their technology and educate their community on its usage and benefits.
“On our changing planet, we have to build in better securities and an ability to adapt,” Sherwin reminds me. With extreme weather events becoming increasingly common, GoSun frequently donates to food banks and shelters, particularly during natural disasters.
“Our big focus is on trying to fit more sustainable, solar-driven products into people’s lives. We want to make them relevant and convenient,” he explains.
Recently, Sherwin spent four days living in an inflatable boat on a Kentucky lake, using only GoSun solar devices. Solar batteries extended the range of their electric motor; solar energy powered their cooler and cooked their food; solar energy even purified their drinking water, which came straight from the lake.
“It’s so empowering,” he says. “Hitting all of our essential needs with solar-powered devices.”
And that’s a hopeful image – our houses, our cars, and our devices, all drawing from the incredible power of our sun.