Company creates balcony-designed, lightweight solar panels to provide cities with more renewable energy access

Karolina Attspodina had her lightbulb moment in December 2020, while visiting a friend in Lisbon. When she noticed the city’s impressive Christmas light display, her friend told her that they were solar powered. Karolina recalls, “It made so much sense. Why aren’t other countries using solar to put lights on our streets at night? From there, I started thinking about how we can bring more solar to our houses.”

She homed in on balconies to increase clean, renewable energy access for urban dwellers. Cities have a lot of them, and people often envelop them in bamboo or fabric. “They offer so many square meters that we can cover with solar,” Karolina says.

Working with a tech-savvy partner, Qian Qin, she developed WeDoSolar, a kit containing either four or eight lightweight solar panels, representing 320-640 watts in all. People can easily install the panels themselves, attaching them vertically to a balcony railing with mounting straps. A microinverter turns solar power into household power. The system is plugged into a standard wall outlet, through which it pushes energy into the grid.

The iPhone of power plants

Whenever the sun shines, the solar energy produced by WeDoSolar takes priority, powering household devices, such as laptops, internet routers, refrigerators, in real time. Karolina says that one kit can replace up to 25% of a household’s energy needs; an app allows users to monitor production and savings.

People often ask her about the vertical position of the panels. She explains that yes, during the summer months, they can be less efficient than modules placed at an angle. But in winter, when the sun is low, they are better exposed, meaning that their energy production averages out over the year. 

Most of Trust Pilot reviewers have given WeDoSolar five stars. One wrote, “I have had my balcony power plant from we do solar for about one year now. The installation was done in about one hour and it has produced tons of KW/h of energy since then… it is really like the iPhone of power plants.”

WeDoSolar was a 2023 finalist in the European Investment Bank Institute’s Social Innovation Tournament, which supports entrepreneurs who are making a social, ethical, or environmental impact. When recalling the experience, and the friends she made, Karolina gets a little teary. “Even though we didn’t win, I think all of us were winners.”

The importance of energy independence 

In February 2022, WeDoSolar’s kit hit the market, selling directly to customers via the company’s website. A few days later, Russia invaded Ukraine. “After a week we were sold out,” says Karolina. “Everyone understood how serious the situation is, and how serious it is for us to be independent energy-wise.”

The war has been especially difficult for Karolina, who was born in Ukraine in 1988 and moved to Ireland at age nine with her mother. She has always been fascinated by technology but studied business and economics at university. She relocated to Berlin after a friend offered her a job at a digital agency.

The war broke out while WeDoSolar was in a funding round. “It took us a bit longer to raise the money,” she says. “I was in the company, but also so much in Ukraine, trying to bring in my relatives, my sisters, and their kids.”

Loosening the red tape

Even though WeDoSolar went from an idea to a business in just over a year, it has encountered obstacles, primarily concerning regulations, and the company has a lobbying department that works to change them. For example, until recently most European countries had laws against pushing energy into the grid without a dedicated power socket.

In 2023, Germany was one of the first to loosen the rules on plug-in solar, and other European countries have followed suit. Germany has also removed value added tax on solar energy investments, and started granting subsidies to homeowners who install PV panels. As the red tape has lessened, balcony solar has surged in the country.

WeDoSolar has also lobbied for the rights of renters, since landlords sometimes prohibit them from installing PV panels. At first, renters were forgotten by Germany’s subsidies, which Karolina—a renter herself—found shocking. “More than 50% of our population are renters,” she points out. The law has since changed.

Available in 24 European countries, WeDoSolar is scaling by transitioning to a B2B model, with retail chains, resellers, and ecommerce platforms. The company is already turning a profit, though Karolina says her priority is making a dent in climate change.

“For us, the most important metric is CO2 reduction, as we are in a huge crisis. We are always looking at how to distribute our product at a cheap price, or completely free.”

Sometimes, when Karolina walks around Berlin, she purposefully goes past buildings where she knows WeDoSolar’s kits are installed. “It’s cool,” she says, “physical products give you a lot of joy, especially when you can see how people use them.” And unlike Christmas lights, her solar panels are on display all year round.