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SunPower: Fun and Games to Turn People Towards the Sun

RP Siegel headshotWords by RP Siegel
Data & Technology

This post is part of a series on Stakeholder Engagement sponsored by Jurat Software.

Those of us who have been around this sustainability business for a while have experienced the challenge of getting people to step out of their habitual world view and consider looking at things a little differently, and yes, perhaps even change. There are those people who get excited about learning new ways to live more efficiently and with a lower impact, and then there is everybody else, to whom the subject does not last more than a minute of two before it becomes—well, boring.

Is there any way to make it fun? Well, some of us have written entertaining thrillers that broach the subject, and more and more green references are creeping into our popular culture every day.

But SunPower, designer and manufacturer of high-efficiency solar panels and arrays has found a way to combine social networking and gaming to attract lots of people to learn more about solar power online. Fun in the sun, anyone?

The company, which will be providing high-efficiency panels to the 250MW California Valley Solar Ranch launched a Facebook-based Solar Discovery Game (registration required to play) designed to educate participants about solar energy while entertaining them and providing an opportunity to win prizes including a $25,000 solar installation for your home plus more than 60 randomly drawn prizes from SunPower’s partners and affiliates including airline tickets and electronics. Contestants win points and virtual “badges” by answering a series of questions. If you don’t know the answer you can follow a link that will take you to it. Most, if not all of the answers can be found on the company’s website, though they might be hidden in a blog or even a video documentary.

This gets users clicking through to various pages on the extensive site, and in the process of hunting for answers, learning quite a bit about solar panels. Some of these answers dispel myths, like, for example, that solar panels are easily damaged, or that solar power is only viable in sunny locations. The questions are informative and somewhat detail oriented and some of them can be quite tricky--like the one that includes photosynthesis as a type of solar collector.

According to Belis Aksoy, SunPower’s New Media Marketing Manager, “It is basically a way for us to engage with our audience in a fun and meaningful way.” Using Facebook as the platform for the game makes it easy for people to share the experience with their friends.

How well has the game worked in its attempt to get the word out? According to Ingrid Ekstrom, SunPower's director of corporate communications, "In the first three weeks since we launched the game on June 21, SunPower’s Facebook community grew by 67 percent." That brought them up into the neighborhood of 10,000 “Likes,” certainly not rock star status, but still a good number in the green domain.

Are there other online green games? Of course. Here are a few I came across.

  • Plan-It Green – arcade simulation that let’s you transform a dirty town into a clean one

  • Switch – surviving an energy blackout

  • Energyville – hosted by Chevron, allows players to manage a city

  • ElectroCity –like EnergyVille, except this one is form New Zealand

  • Global Warming Interactive – a system dynamics modeling, what-if approach to the issue.

[Image Credit: Sunpower Corp, http://us.sunpowercorp.com/]

RP Siegel is the co-author of the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, the first in a series covering the human side of various sustainability issues including energy, food, and water.  Like airplanes, we all leave behind a vapor trail. And though we can easily see others’, we rarely see our own.

Follow RP Siegel on Twitter.

RP Siegel headshotRP Siegel

RP Siegel, author and inventor, shines a powerful light on numerous environmental and technological topics. His work has appeared in Triple Pundit, GreenBiz, Justmeans, CSRWire, Sustainable Brands, Grist, Strategy+Business, Mechanical Engineering,  Design News, PolicyInnovations, Social Earth, Environmental Science, 3BL Media, ThomasNet, Huffington Post, Eniday, and engineering.com among others . He is the co-author, with Roger Saillant, of Vapor Trails, an adventure novel that shows climate change from a human perspective. RP is a professional engineer - a prolific inventor with 53 patents and President of Rain Mountain LLC a an independent product development group. RP was the winner of the 2015 Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week blogging competition. Contact: bobolink52@gmail.com


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