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The Light is Green



A "History" of Solar & Thermal Systems, Inc. (by Paul Passarelli, in the first, second, and third person for dramatic effect)

Thursday, January 2001, My co-workers and I wonder where their paychecks are.  A call to the home office, explains it was a clerical error on or about the holiday break.  The affected workers make jokes about the "suits" in the main office, and resume shoulder to wheel positions.

Early March, Friday, lunchtime, same group of co-workers get rubber paychecks, there is much distressing in the office.  A call to home office reveals financial people are out of office until tomorrow.  Local spokes person presses to have company president provide explanation.  The affected workers make *nasty jokes* about the "suits" in the main office, and resume shoulder to wheel positions.

Next Thursday, replacement checks that were supposed to arrive Tuesday finally arrive, letter in Fed-Ex envelope says "Sorry."  More jokes, less hostility, back to work...  Unbeknownst to us, this is the last paycheck we will receive until mid June...

April 15, an unimportant date in relation to the events unfolding, but like the "Ides of March" it's a famous date...

Moral is down, lunches are getting longer, thoughts are turning to money and the lack thereof.  Enjoying a particularly bright and sunny day, the thought occurred (again) about how to capture sunlight and sell the energy, and, being surrounded by engineers, I had an audience that I could bounce ideas off of without having to explain the difference between a kilowatt and a kilowatt-hour.

Objoke: A Doctor, a Lawyer, and an Engineer, are arguing about whether it's better to have a Wife or a Mistress.
The Doctor says a wife; she's a life partner, probably helped you thru school, and is the mother of your children.
The Lawyer says a mistress; she's your escape from the daily grind, and when either of you change, you can simply walk away.
The Engineer says you need both!  This way the wife can suspect you're seeing the mistress, and the mistress can believe you're home with the wife, so, since no one is occupying your time, you can go back to the lab and get some work done.

June... We're told the office will be closing on the 30th (I'm sugar coating this, there was a lot of swearing and name calling on conference calls with the home office since March, but that's not important.) and we'd get our final paychecks by mail in early July.

July 4th holiday,  I've got stacks of spreadsheets, sketches, drawings, and notes, from 2 1/2 months of nights and lunch chit-chat.  We go to Manresa Island generating station to watch fireworks, and I answer questions with the plant manager for 3 hours and 10,000 mosquito bites.  We schedule a lunch meeting for later in the week.  He wants to invite the chief engineer, and a rep from NRG.

Lunch was delicious, the meeting went from 11:AM til 2:30pm.  Technically, the meeting was a great success... Unfortunately there was no denying that from a business perspective, I was grossly unprepared.  But, the advice was sincere, get incorporated, raise capital, build it and they will come.  I learned that a small plant like Manresa was able to make and sell *juice* for $50/MWhr (that's $0.05/kWhr) but was able to get as much as $75-$100 when demand was high, so the plant's economic model was too operate mostly when the demand and price was high enough to justify the overtime. hmmm...

July, a pad full of notes, and a 3 line phone, I went to work...  I drove all over Fairfield county meeting "investors", invariably, they'd like the idea, but latch onto one "flaw" in my situation... Needless to say, I got very little traction.

July 19, 2001 Solar & Thermal Systems, Incorporated in Connecticut as a "C" corporation.  Have attractive sepia stock certificates to show perspective investors... I've still got a lot to learn...

Late July 2001, I got a call from a friend at a company I used to contract for.  He asked me if I was available for a contract.  The ugly pay situation from the first half of the year was a strong motivator, I went back to work in West Hartford...

September 11, 2001 'nuf said.

Feb 2004, The RAH-66 Comanche project is over.  My contract is "officially" cancelled, but there is a little more work that has to be done.

May 2004, I've ported some of the software I developed for Comanche to another bird.  Contract complete.

From July 2001 to May 2004 I spent about 3 hours a day in the car, driving from Norwalk to West Hartford and back.  I swear the car could find it's own way, that left me a lot of time for thinking about the way I was going to make the Solar & Thermal product work.  Aside from extensive cerebration, the activity of the company was limited to:

  • Crunching the energy numbers.
  • Watching the state of the photovoltaic industry.
  • Watching the price of energy rise...
  • Watching the status of the regulatory environment...
  • Exploring design concepts for the STS engine.
  • Finding the right materials for the engine and panels.
  • Watching the price of energy fall...
  • Talking to people, homeowners, business owners, plant managers, etc. about their perception of solar power.
  • Watching the price of energy rise...
  • Watching the changes of the regulatory environment...
  • Talking to "potential" investors.
  • Trying to satisfy the requests of "potential" investors.

In 2004, to satisfy the repeated question "What makes you think you can manufacture this?" The company bought the facility formerly known as "TM Precision, LLC" with the intention of using it as a springboard to the ultimate manufacture of the STS prototype.  Unfortunately the major customer of "TM" lost some major helicopter contracts and you know what rolls down hill...  TM Precision was under new management, and the work dried up.

October 1, 2004, the shop had a new manufacturing manager, who was going to handle the aerospace parts, and produce new commercial business... Famous last words.  

By Feb 2005 the TM reputation had been horribly damaged, no new business had been brought in, and no old work was going out.  Exit the manufacturing manager.

The former mgr. had convinced me to buy some new CAM software from a buddy of his, that turned out to be full of bugs and crashed 10 times a day.  He never told me it was crashing, but I found out as soon as I cleaned out his user account and deleted a bunch of ... (cough) images.

He also had me sign up for a service called ""; their salesman said and I quote: "It's not a race to the bottom."  He lied!!!

Memorial Day 2005 -- "pathologic fracture of the right proximal humerus" (I broke my arm) (bone still broken >1 year later)

I learned how to be a southpaw on the PC by creating solid models of the STS engine in SolidWorks 

September 2005, Spending hours doing lots of online quotes, not winning any work, old customers don't trust shop, suspect light approaching light to be oncoming train. Meet Larry Black; (Larry is taller than me.)  He's got a need for manufacturing, I've got the capacity to manufacture.

On the surface, Larry & I have nothing in common, but, we discover some similar interests.  I tell him about Solar & Thermal, he sees huge potential.  I'd lost focus, Larry helps me get back on track.  As an engineer, I answer questions in a deterministic way; as a software engineer I try to make statements that are internally consistent.  Sometimes when an investor asks me a question, I want to say: "***Syntax Error***  please try again" but I can't, and they wouldn't get the joke anyway.  But somehow, Larry knows what they are *really* asking, and is able to answer them while I sit there with a pained expression on my face.  That's synergy!

We've had e-mail, letters, conference calls, and meetings with several investors, investigators, program managers, commissioners, politicians, aides, and lawyers since we started working together.  And while all of my earlier contacts usually ended with "get back to be when you've got x, y, and z..." the current contacts usually end with "Can I show this to someone else, I'd like to get their input?  We'll get back to you early next week."  That's a big difference.

That brings this summary up to July 2006.  More info as it unfolds.




Copyright 2001, 2009 Solar & Thermal Systems, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
S&T, STS, STSI, and other abbreviations are Service Marks of Solar & Thermal Systems Inc.
Roof & Distribution© logo and Cool Copper© Copyright 2001 Solar & Thermal Systems Inc.
AEG, PMP, MLP, DRP, are used with permission.
Phoenix logo© and Swirling Rays© Copyright 2005 Solar & Thermal Systems Inc.
Tri-lobed Sun© Copyright 2006 Solar & Thermal Systems Inc.
The Light is Green!© Copyright 2006 Solar & Thermal Systems Inc.
ECO-CO2© Tonne, Railcar, and Coalcar, Copyright 2007 Solar & Thermal Systems Inc.
All other Trademarks, Service marks, etc., are the property of their respective owners.
Updated: 09/11/10 19:33