Of his many adventures, Rene Strinholm counts climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and canoeing the Yukon River among his top two. He’s an outdoor adventure enthusiast with a military background who knows what it’s like to need deployable power that works in remote areas and all conditions.
His field experience – for both work and pleasure – led him to launch Off Grid Trek, a Calgary-based company and one of few in the world providing efficient, rugged, compact and deployable solar solutions for campers and emergency responders alike.
Read our Q&A to learn more about the company’s innovations and stop by the Off Grid Trek booth at Solar Canada Conference (May 8-9, 2019) to see first-hand product demonstrations.
*This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
What is your startup story?
Rene Strinholm: After leaving the military, I contracted to a satellite communications company where I supplied deployable communications systems for field use to militaries, NGOs, and oil, gas and mining companies. The equipment I used in the military was bulkier than what we supplied, and this got me thinking about how similar equipment could be made smaller and more compact.
Later, I became the Canadian distributor for a unique line of off-road camping trailers manufactured in South Africa. Each one weighs less than 1300 lbs but requires large, bulky solar panels to charge. It only made sense for me to develop a smaller, more lightweight and portable charging solution that would work well for these trailers and have other applications.
In 2017, Off Grid Trek launched our first products – three solar blankets. The largest is 215 watts, the medium size is 120 watts, and the smallest is 28.5 watts. The largest fold to the size of a laptop and weigh only 13.6 lbs. The smallest, weighing only 1.1 lbs, is the lightest on the market today.
How are your products innovative?
Rene Strinholm: The premise behind the company is to provide solar solutions that are efficient, rugged, affordable, deployable and compact. It all falls within the line of thinking I learned in the military – to have something that will work in all conditions.
Unlike our competitors, we’ve made improvements to our blankets to simplify everything for the end user. Our biggest claim to fame is our 23.7% efficiency rating. You can go camping for weeks and run out of food and water before you run out of power. Our solar blankets still work in low light conditions, even if it is raining, snowing, or under heavy smoke. In contrast, our customers tell us that our competitor’s solutions will stop working if covered with 30 per cent shade.
Our innovations make us stand out in the industry. As an example, we were recently authorized as only one of only two solar companies to provide third-party charging to Inergy’s Portable Solar Power Generators.
Who benefits most from your products?
Rene Strinholm: There are a lot of reasons to have backup power. Many of our customers are campers/overlanders, but we also supply solar blankets for field use, emergency preparedness, first responders and military. We’re getting a lot of business from the coastal regions of the U.S. where they have heavy hurricane seasons. I’m also selling a lot in California because of the wildfires.
How have your own adventures impacted your company and product designs?
I love anything that has to do with the outdoors and I’ve used most of the solar solutions on the market. Most of the products, because they have low efficiency, can’t keep up with my charging needs.
Last September, while camping in the mountains at six thousand feet, we had 10 inches of snowfall in two days. I deployed my Off Grid Trek solar blanket and even though it was covered in snow and beaded water and we were literally in the clouds, I was getting 25 watts of power.
Why are you excited about exhibiting at Solar Canada?
Rene Strinholm: There will be many industry professionals attending from all walks of life. I’m looking forward to having conversations with people and forming new ideas and collaborations.
What can attendees expect to find at your exhibitor booth?
Rene Strinholm: Stop by to see deployable, efficient, rugged solar solutions that work in pretty much any environment and take up very little space. I’ll have two South African off-road camping trailers set up to showcase the practicality and efficiency of these solutions.
Meet Off Grid Trek in the Solar Canada Conference Exhibition Hall!
Want to meet suppliers like Off Grid Trek, experience their equipment and learn new skills but don’t have the budget for a full conference pass? The Solar Canada Expo Hall Pass is for you! Discover products and services from exhibitors from the entire solar supply chain and learn about certifications, electrical code changes, standards and case studies in the Longi Solar Learning Pod. Register here for just $85 per day or $125 for both days.
Looking for more solar insights?
Solar Canada Conference & Exposition 2019 provides an excellent platform to connect with industry professionals and enter this growing market. Join us on May 8-9, 2019 at the BMO Centre in Calgary, Alberta. Register today.