If you live in Florida you know well the quick, searing pain of brushing against the red-hot seatbelt buckle of a car parked in the sun. That solar energy is powerful stuff, and New College student Antonia "Toni" Ginsberg-Klemmt, 22, is harnessing it with her latest invention: GismoPower.
It stands for "Garage Interior Storable Modular Photovoltaic On Wheels With EV Charger Rack." The solar-power-on-wheels invention was born as one of her independent study projects at New College, where she studies physics and environmental studies. Other New College projects included casting 3D scales for silicone mermaid tails and making them into swimmable fins and founding New Crew SRQ, the first collegiate rowing club on the Suncoast to represent multiple schools.
GismoPower, however, has earned her national acclaim and a $10,000 grant for being one of 10 projects—out of thousands—chosen to receive the OZY Genius Award. Ginsberg-Klemmt was also recently listed among the top 25 entrepreneurs under the age of 25 in the region by the Tampa Bay Business Journal.
Her invention is the latest in disruptive technology, not just because it’s a collapsible carport that offers shade while charging your electric car with solar power, but because it can also feed that power back into the home. That means consumers can access solar power without the expensive commitment of solar roof panels, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars to install.
The mobile nature of the carport also bypasses permitting fees and contractor costs that come with building a permanent structure. Plus, you don't have to be a homeowner. Since it's mobile, users can rely on GismoPower to feed their rental solar power by plugging it into a 220-volt outlet, "like an appliance," Ginsberg-Klemmt says. When renters move or have to evacuate—in case of a hurricane, for example—they can fold up the carport and it can be moved or stored away.
The carport is patent pending, and the first one cost roughly $17,000 and took six months to build. (That includes start-up costs for buying tools and excludes labor.) Ginsberg-Klemmt hopes to get the consumer cost down to about $14,000. Solar panels are expensive, and the most efficient ones are made in China. Ginsberg-Klemmt hopes increased demand will ramp up closer-to-home production, limiting the carbon footprint that comes with long-distance transportation.
Her interest in solar was partly inspired by her upbringing. Raised on a sailboat until she was six, Ginsberg-Klemmt and her family eventually moved to Sarasota where, today, their home and cars are powered by solar energy. Her father, an engineer from Germany, fought Florida Power & Light's limits on consumers generating their own power in court. The case was eventually dismissed. He taught his daughter to weld, and they built the mobile EV charging carport together.
Ginsberg-Klemmt also aims to integrate those mermaid fins with GismoPower and make them become part of the solar world. "I even make them glow in the dark,” she says.
Mostly, though, she hopes that GismoPower will find success in the consumer market and help bypass FPL's chokehold on solar energy use. “We are the sunshine state, this should be the norm," she says. "It shouldn't be unaffordable where the sun is so abundant."