Matthew Portis: Inventor And Engineer Of The First Patented Solar Workstation

by Duke Magazine

SolGreen initiative was conceived out of the need to always have an adequate access to power irrespective of the location. As the first to invent, engineer, and patent a solar workstation, their Evodia Solar Workstation generates power to charge cellphones, laptops, lighting, and Wi-Fi.  

Matthew Portis, who is an Ohio native is the founder of SolGreen and inventor of the Evodia, thought of the idea to create an outdoor solar-powered workstation, after visiting a bookstore and wondered why none of the patrons were using the outdoor seating. Portis then inferred that most people stayed inside the bookstore because there was no access to power to charge their devices outdoors. 

The solar-powered workstation provides adequate seating capacity for crowded facilities and is built to withstand harsh outdoor environments. 

“It withstood Hurricane Irma back in 2017, we had a fleet of units in Miami at Florida International University and then right after the storm people would come because the power was out and sit outside and use the work stations,” Christiano Terry, Global Head of Strategic Partnerships and VP, said. 

Image credit: SolGreen

As a Black company in an underrepresented market, SolGreen has faced challenges when selling their workstation. 

“We found out quickly that it was a new technology so people are going to be skeptical, but also they were skeptical because they said ‘A Black man invented this and we’re spending lots of money for it. I’ve never seen this before so I don’t know if I trust it,’” Terry said. 

However, these challenges have not deterred SolGreen from taking glory as a Black-owned company, and following the pace of historic Black inventors. 

“SolGreen is about innovation. We are a Black-owned company so we look at the lineage of all the Black inventions that came before us and didn’t get a chance to take ownership of the things that they invented,” he said. 

To build on the rich tradition of Black inventions, SolGreen is actively expanding its horizon towards the global market, and has plans to partner with countries in Africa to lead the way into a new frontier of Black business. 

“We’re working on two projects in Nigeria and South Africa. Black-owned companies here in the United States need to do more business with Africa,” Terry said. 

Image credit: SolGreen

In addition to doing business with Africa, the cleantech company will be making provision for jobs for the community, as each workstation creates 15 jobs in the area of steel and fiberglass. 

SolGreen has hugely grown to be the only Black-owned systems engineering company in the world that builds state of the art off-grid renewable energy technology solutions for communities internationally. Subsequently, the company is planning on honing in on its public health mission by providing hospitals and medically-related industries with their workstations.

“We’re going to be starting with the Virgin Islands. The first location will probably be the medical campus at their university,” Terry said. 

SolGreen is championing the charge in the cleantech industry with innovation, passion, and creativity. Its Evodia Solar Workstations are currently used in 80 locations. 

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