I grew up in Santa Cruz, CA where I developed an appreciation of the outdoors and the environment through the activities I loved to do everyday. Santa Cruz was a mecca for surfing, mountain biking, kiting, skating, foil surfing and everything else I liked to do. I knew from an early age I wanted to have a career that I loved and that I could feel good about knowing I was giving back to the environment.
I took my first solar course in 2009 and followed the guest speakers out of class to get my first job in the solar industry working for Real Goods Solar at their Santa Cruz branch. I guess I can say I've been working in the solar industry for 8 years. After studying for a few years at Cabrillo Community College I wanted to get more serious about my education and decided to pursue an engineering degree. I found Oregon Institute of Technology in Portland, OR was offering the first Renewable Energy Engineering degree in the nation and I knew that's where I wanted to go. I transferred to Oregon Tech in the Fall of 2014 after completing all my core courses in math, physics and engineering at Cabrillo.
The summer of 2014 I had the opportunity to work for Solar Plus Inc. an innovative solar company on the island of Kauai. Kauai may possibly have the largest percentage of solar on it's utility grid in the US and therefore the island is a test bed for future technologies regarding solar plus storage. The utility on Kauai over the years has been making it inherently more and more difficult for homeowners to connect their residential solar systems to the grid. Doug Phillips, the president of Solar Plus, has constantly been coming up with new ways to install hybrid systems that allow homeowners to power their homes with solar power without fully disconnecting from the grid. Working for Solar Plus was insightful and I gained lots of hands on experience with custom off-grid systems incorporating energy storage of all battery types. It became tradition throughout my stay at Oregon Tech that I spend my summers in Kauai working with Doug and his team on microgrid type projects. Summer of 2014 I brought a sailboat back from Hawaii with my brother and a crew of six. Again I realized the potential for Tiny Watts Solar as the boat I was on didn't have any solar power because the owner was too overwhelmed and didn't understand the technology.
My experience working for Solar Plus helped me get a job working for a leading solar company in the Portland area, Elemental Energy. The owner of Elemental Energy, John Grieser was also an Oregon Tech student about five years before my time, Elemental Energy was his senior project and today has been awarded top solar contractor for five years in a row. John saw the value in my experience working with off-grid systems and brought me on as their energy storage specialist/solar consultant. One of the projects I first worked on with Elemental Energy was also teamed up with another Oregon Tech graduate Troy Holland from Sprinter Tech, a macgyver engineer at heart and van guru. Together they engineered a fleet of solar foodtrucks for a tech campus in Silicon Valley. I was stoked to be apart of such a cool project and happy to be gaining more hands on experience with customized solar installations.
While finishing out my senior year I was working for Elemental Energy part-time as a consultant but wanted a broader understanding of the industry on all scales. I obtained an internship at a power consulting firm, HDR Inc in downtown Portland. At HDR I was apart of a specialized team that worked on substation design for utility scale solar farms and energy storage projects. It was a great experience to be apart of such large projects but I found I got more satisfaction out of the smaller projects that weren't so cut and dry. I was at HDR for about a year as an intern and during that time was promoted to designer and upon graduation to electrical engineer. I worked at HDR for two months full-time but found I was growing unhappy with the corporate setting and sitting in an office from 9-5. At this point I decided to say goodbye to the corporate world and set out with my fiance Savana to form Tiny Watts Solar. There was a void in the world of smaller projects that we set out to fill. So many people get lost in the forums or on YouTube and end up wasting time and money trying to figure out the electrical portion of their project. We want to help these people make the transition to sustainable power more easily. We want to provide support and guidance to the DIY types and make sure they get the right components for their project. We also want to be there for the people that just want someone else to do the electrical for them and trust that it is done correctly and safely. Tiny Watts Solar is mobile by nature and allows Savana and I to travel in between projects working remotely and on the road! Get in touch with us today and we'd be happy to help you out!
I grew up on a sail boat for the first 6 years of my life. I was born living tiny, traveling across large oceans not seeing land for months. My diet consisted of food my parents harvested from the ocean, mostly freshly speared fish and lobster. I spent my days running around blonde, brown and naked catching hermit crabs, watching dolphins and whales swim off the bow of the boat. Instead of Barbie dolls I played with dead flying fish that had crashed on our boat and dried out in the hot afternoon sun. I was born into a life of simplicity, a "tiny" living space but with a world of adventure.
My parents decided to sell everything and move on to a boat for their honey moon. They didn't want to be in the rat race, but wanted to go at life at their own pace. My parents did not have any sailing experience whatsoever, but they had a dream and a vision. They bought a sailboat without ever having sailed, read sailing books and practiced for a couple years sailing in the San Juan Islands. They set out on what was to be a two year trip for their honey moon, but came back to Washington 13 years later after circumnavigating the world.
My mom popped me out in the small town of Nelson, New Zealand three years into their journey. Two years later, my sister Marina was born in Mooloolaba, Australia. Those first six years of my life were surrounded by wildlife, adventure and survival. We lived in some of the most remote places on earth, sometimes anchored up on just a submerged reef for months at a time. One special place that I recall was Chagos Archipelago a place in which was uninhabited. A small chain of islands directly South of India, dead center of the Indian Ocean. We parked the boat in the bay and lived on the small island for a year. We had no reason to leave or go anywhere else.
Once we got back to Washington they sold the boat Reefer. Reefer kept my family safe for years, when they sold her they found themselves very unhappy. It was hard to transition from everyday being a new adventure to the typical routine lifestyle. After 13 years of living off the sea in a 37 ft living space they knew that they were not meant to be back in Washington. They told me and my sister we each get one bag to pack our things and that we were moving to Kauai. My sister and I were thrilled.
We moved to Kauai with nothing hoping that something would work out. My parents put up posters of us looking for a place to live and work. The locals would tear down the signs or write on them to go back to where we came from.
My parents were loosing hope when a women wrote to us and said that she had a place for us if we were willing to help work on her farm. So we did. Auntie Lee opened up her home to us and we ended up converting an old a run down chicken coop section of the barn into a livable loft space. We were used to living small so it felt right.
From 8-14 yrs old I ran around the farm with dirt in between my toes, catching chickens, frogs and spiders, rolling in mud, and pooping in 5 gallon bucket with sawdust. I was now a farm girl.
Living off coconut crabs, and fresh fish. The beaches were white as snow and the water as clear as glass.We stopped in other remote places like Papua New Guinea where I ran with the native children. Madagascar where I caught chameleons and played with the lemurs. I carried an orphaned baby orangutan on my back in Borneo, Indonesia. I chased zebras through the African Savannah. Everyday was different and change was constant. My family and I were living in a small space but it gave us the vessel to live the majority of our life outside. Living tiny never bothered us, it was a simple and convenient way to live. As my sister and I got older my parents were feeling the pressure of socializing us and getting us an education. Towards the end of our adventure my parents stopped at the beautiful island of Kauai. They fell in love immediately with the garden island, but needed to go back to Washington to see family and put my sister and I into formal schooling.
My life growing up was very special and unique. I grew up with everyday being different. Always a new adventure. I found change is the key of feeling alive. It became ingrained in me from a very young age so when I came to move into a van at the age of 22, the change felt natural. One of my favorite things about living in the van is we can decide where we want to park, it could be seen as one of the hardest things as well not knowing exactly where you'll sleep tonight, but that's the adventure I love. It reminds me of dropping anchor on the sailboat in different coves and beaches, it's how we decided on the name
Our Land Yacht because it can take us anywhere we want to go on land.
Our Land Yacht
This is Bella!
A 2016 170” Mercedes 4X4 Sprinter
Wes and I have been living the van life for over 3 years now. The first van we built out was a 2006 Dodge Sprinter that we lived in for 2 years while we finished college; avoiding rent payments and living a simple, mobile lifestyle. After we graduated we sold our van and upgraded to Bella a 2016 4x4 MB 170” wheelbase Sprinter. She is everything we dreamed of and was so exciting to build her out as our dream home. With Bella being our second build we were able to use what we learned from our first build and apply it. We knew exactly what we wanted: a shower, a pull out bed, a big kitchen, a walk-able solar roof deck, gear storage etc.
It took us about 3 weeks to figure out our design. It was the middle of the summer in Portland. We roughed it out and slept in Bella as a cargo shell, we put our backpacker pads on the metal floor and slept in it with no windows and no insulation and no ventilation in mid summer Portland heat. We took Bella out on the weekends as it it was the only time we could at the time because of our corporate jobs. Everyday we woke up in the van, we’d drink our cups and think hard about where our kitchen would go, bed, shower/wet closet etc. We would tape out rough dimensions on the floor and try to visualize how the living space would feel. After a few weeks, our design became clear.
We built out Bella in 4 months complete with some pretty amazing systems: the Tiny Watts Solar custom 1000 Watt walkable solar roof deck, thanks to our friend Troy Holland (@vanlifetech) we have a radiant heated floor kit that includes in addition to cozy toes, 2.5 gallons of on demand hot water and auxiliary air heater if needed (we never need it, the floor is warm ; ) ) The system sources all the heat from our on board diesel tank and therefore our van is a one fuel rig with all electric appliances. The heating system is very electrically efficient, to be able to heat a van and have hot water at the tap for less than 100 Watts is quite incredible. We also have a hot recirculating shower that uses only 1.5 gallons of water per shower in which it allows you to take a hot shower indefinitely as it recycles the water and cleans it as you’re showering. With Troys genius inventions we can save water and stay cozy and comfortable in our tiny home! Go check out @vanlifetech and let Troy know we sent you!