Two Mercer University Class of 2021 graduates have designed a more efficient, environmentally friendly and affordable generator.
Spencer Lowe, an environmental engineering major, and Trenton Williams, an electrical engineering major, founded a company earlier this year that focuses on streamlining alternative power in order to protect the ecosystem. Solar Turtle’s flagship product is a solar-powered generator, which the alumni started working on in 2020 for their senior engineering design project.
“We started getting traction from other professors, who hyped (the product) up a bit and made it clear to us that we might have something to pursue. We took that with a grain of salt and ran with it,” Lowe said.
Mercer’s machine shop provided assistance on some of the mechanical aspects of the device, and the pair received guidance from the Mercer Innovation Center on creating a business model and applying for a provisional patent.
The Solar Turtle generator is comparable to traditional generators but 100% solar powered. It uses one main solar panel, which rolls out in an arc for maximum sunlight absorption, and three sensors to recharge the unit’s power cell.
“It can do everything a gas generator can do, but it’s more efficient,” Lowe said. “It’s taking what might be a larger green energy alternative and making something that one or two people can carry. It’s a more personal, efficient solar panel charging unit.”
The unit could do things like charge cellphones and laptops, keep lights on, maintain internet connection and power a mini fridge. It could be useful for leisure activities such as camping as well as military and disaster relief situations.
“There isn’t much that it can’t do,” Williams said.
In April, Lowe and Williams won second place in the Mercer Innovation Center’s Next Big Idea Competition, and they used some of their winnings to create a bigger and better model. They increased the size of the main solar panel and solar cell, allowing for more instantaneous power. Most solar-powered generators on the market are smaller, providing 40 to 50 watts of electricity, but Solar Turtle offers almost 1,000 watts.
Now that the initial designs are done, the pair is working to get the word out about the product as well as expand its capabilities, with the ultimate goal of finding a manufacturer to produce the generator.
“What we would like to do next is focus on coming up with a universal control mechanism, so we can make this as big as possible … residential, industrial, vehicle mounting. That’s the direction we want to go in. I feel like the hardest work is done,” Williams said.