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TechConnect is proud to announce the 2021 TechConnect Defense Innovation Awards recognizing the top 15% of submitted challenge technologies as ranked by the Selection Committee. Rankings are based on the potential positive impact the submitted technology will have for the warfighter and national security.

Publication Date: 19, October 2021



The solar tree is set to be located by a new section of paved recreational trail that will connect to an existing trail in the Cannery District that skirts along the west bank of the Chippewa River. Nearby is land where Duluth, Minn.-based developer P&R Companies is proposing to build $53.3 million of new storefronts and apartments.

“I’m excited that the Cannery District will host the first of these solar trees,” said Thomas Kemp, chairman of the RDA Board. “We expect the district to be an up-and-coming area in Eau Claire. With the proximity of the riverfront path and several new developments, this
seems like a good place to locate this new technology.”

Publication Date: June 16, 2021

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“Solar arrays, they’re a primary generator, but they’re space-taking. They take space, right? What we want to do is create solar products that are place-making,” Johnson said. “To me, that’s pressing the limits of design and moving in a direction that the world is moving in. And I think we got something here.”

A particularly cool thing about this project is its collaboration with Johnson’s other company, Artisan Forge Metalworks. With the space and talent of his metalworking crew, they can design, manufacture, and fabricate the trees top-to-bottom right here in Eau Claire. And Johnson’s projections show that if things go according to plan, he could add roughly 30 jobs here in the next 12-18 months.

“Let’s do some wild stuff,” he said. “Let’s have fun. Let’s push the envelope. Let’s build products that nobody else is building, and let’s do it right here in Eau Claire.”

Publication Date: July 22, 2020


Boyd Park Plus is an initiative to revitalize Boyd Park (located on Main Street) into the neighborhood’s crown jewel. Driven by the Eastside Hill Neighborhood Association (EHNA) Steering Committee, this project will create an active community space of which we can all be proud.

Publication Date: 16, February 2020



Brian Graff and Greg Johnson of Solar Forma merged their talents to create a solar product that's both functional and beautiful.

"We can now move with renewable energy into areas that we hadn't been able to before we kind of decided we wanted to reimagine and redefine the integration of renewable energy into human spaces," Graff said. "With these kinds of products and these designs we've been able to do that."

Publication Date: July 04, 2021



From the savannas of Africa to the Cannery District in Eau Claire, a new type of tree is giving solar energy an upgrade, and it’s making its debut in the Chippewa Valley.

Near this road construction on North Oxford Avenue, the Eau Claire Redevelopment Authority approved the installation of a solar tree.Executive Director Aaron White said it’s all part of a revitalization plan for the area.


“The Cannery District Redevelopment Project and the construction going on with the street behind us was perfect timing to incorporate something into the public spaces that were about to be created,” White said.

White said the tree will be an attraction piece itself in a part of town that the city is working to revitalize.

This will be the first solar tree here in the United States, but Solar Forma has plans to expand its operation right here in the Chippewa Valley.

Publication Date: June 18, 2021


Did you know solar panels could look like trees or gentle waves? Solar Forma, an Ideadvance Seed Fund awardee and SBDC at UW-Eau Claire client, is out to revolutionize the way we view green energy.

The Eau Claire company, founded in 2019, designs aesthetically pleasing multi-purpose solar products for public spaces. Its E-Cacia Solar Tree, based on the acacia tree of Africa, provides shelter, lighting, wireless device charging, electric vehicle charging and a WiFi hotspot. And the E-Wave Carport, based on the waves of oceans and lakes, has similar features.

On June 1, Solar Forma received much-deserved attention from U.S. Rep. Ron Kind during his visit to Eau Claire businesses. In attendance were various partners of Solar Forma, including the SBDC at UW-Eau Claire who has provided financial and marketing assistance whenever needed.

“Fun. Dedicated. Passionate. These are truly great qualities for any business owner,” said Luke Kempen, director of the SBDC at UW-Eau Claire, of owners Greg Johnson and Brian Graff.

Publication Date: June 9, 2021

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