Portable solar devices to power your world
With just over 100 shopping days until Christmas, here are some nifty gadgets to make your toes curl. Portable solar units enable you to power electronics and give you the creature comforts you deserve when you are on the move. Portable solar devices are perfect for powering small items like iPods, cell phones and GPS devices when you are camping, traveling or using recreational vehicles. Using solar energy offsets carbon emissions from traveling while saving you money on utility bills. Larger portable solar systems are big enough to power construction sites, outdoor events and emergency response efforts when earthquakes, hurricanes or floods take their toll. Solar panels work where conventional energy sources don’t. They may be a little more expensive than a generator, but they are quieter, cheaper to run and better for the environment.
Solar powered backpacks are perfect for camping and hiking in remote regions. You can buy backpacks with solar panels incorporated into them or with clip-on panels that can be attached to a backpack you already own. The panels are lightweight and waterproof. Built to withstand the jostling, bashing and general wear and tear associated with the great outdoors, these robust plastic panels are made from recycled plastic bottles. Lightweight batteries store power and are compatible with a large range of electronic devices. The backpacks and clip-on panels come in different sizes and have different capacities.
Roll up solar panels or mats make use of thin film solar technology to provide you with electricity. The thin, flexible panels are so lightweight that you can stash them in your suitcase, backpack, and picnic basket or even on your bike. Keep one in your car as part of your emergency kit. Even the military is investing in roll up solar mats for troops in the field. The roll up panels come in all shapes to suit your needs and can be wired together to increase output. The smaller, single panels will cost you around $70 while the larger models (up to a mile long) will only set you back a couple of hundred dollars.
Solar purses are a practical solution for busy women. Plug your electronic items into your purse to charge while you are on the go. The bags are made from natural fibers and are biodegradable as they are made from all natural materials such as hemp. The purse batteries can be fully charged in about 6 hours, just leave the purse in the sun while you are at work or at home. The batteries will hold their charge for several days. The bags are available online or from stores across Canada. Not only for women, the bags also come in trendy school-friendly versions for techno-junkie students.
Large energy output does not have to mean less portable. If you are having an outdoor event, are working on a remote site, need extra electricity on your construction site or wish to camp in style, what you need is the Solarline portable solar generator (PSG). These sleek little gems incorporate high-efficiency mono-crystalline solar modules mounted to a trailer which you can hitch to your car. The tough 235-Watt solar panels generate an output powerful enough to handle 3,500 watt loads. The PSGs come with 2 to 6 solar panels, depending on the amount of power you need. The neat cargo trailer has a lockable storage space for your extra gear. Quieter, safer and cleaner than a generator, this innovative system is the future of mobile energy.
The Music Industry does its Part to Save the Environment
On May 28, musician, song writer and environmentalist Brett Dennen will grace the shores of Lake Ontario as part of his world tour. Dennen is in good company when it comes to musical greenies who have been waxing lyrical about the environment for decades. Now Dennen and many of his contemporaries have been putting their money where their mouth is. With a little help from his friends at Reverb and Klean Kanteen, Dennen is hoping to clean up his act.
Stadium concerts produce thousands of tons of carbon when you calculate the energy used at the gig as well as the transport of concertgoers and musicians. Add to that the waste generated by disposable food and beverage containers and you realize that the carbon footprint of concerts is enormous. Enter stage left: Reverb. Founded in Maine by Lauren Sullivan and her musician husband Adam Gardner from Guster, Reverb encourages musicians to go green or get involved in environmental initiatives. Some of the ways in which they work to reduce the carbon footprint of concert venues is to reduce the use of Styrofoam cups, get the band members to travel on biodiesel, support venues that use renewable energy and promote environmental awareness. Reverb creates eco-villages at concert venues where fans can learn more about environmental issues or get involved in environmental campaigns. Carbon offset programs allow fans to contribute to renewable energy initiatives and offset their own carbon footprint. Online carpooling encourages attendees to share rides. Waste generated by concertgoers is reduced or recycled. Food is organic and is sourced locally.
Many of the smaller concerts, some on former Mennonite settlements, are powering their equipment with solar power, especially portable solar generators which are designed for this purpose. Larger concert locations are also converting to wind and solar to power their events.
For Dennen’s Toronto concert, Reverb will set up an eco-village and supply clean water for free to fans through their Klean Kanteen initiative. The eco-village will take advantage of the undivided attention of thousands of concertgoers to spread the word about local non-profits and environmental campaigns. Fans will be given information and encouraged to join local environmental endeavours and texting campaigns as well as initiatives to offset their own carbon footprint. Other artists availing themselves of the opportunity are Sheryl Crow, Pfish, John Mayer, Jack Johnson, and Ships and Dip 4. Local band, the Barenaked Ladies, were one of the first to utilize Reverb’s expertise. They greened their show back in 2004, using biodegradable supplies and running their tour vehicles on biodiesel. They even opened with a greenhouse awareness video. Maroon 5 also has biodiesel transportation and they have teamed up with Vote Solar to promote solar energy.
Reverb relies on donations from environmentally minded musicians and businesses. Their onsite activities and campaigns are run by volunteers. To donate or volunteer, go to http://www.reverb.org/take-action
On a side note: Have you ever wondered “what page of google am i on?”. You’re not alone, thousands of people are typing their name into search engines to see what they might find. Try it, you might be surprised at what will come up.
Solar power arrives in rural communities thanks to the Barefoot College and their female solar engineers. “They come here as women, but leave as tigers.” — Sanjit “Bunker” Roy, school founder.
Solar systems are a godsend for the developing world. Most developing nations enjoy an abundance of sunshine which can be converted to energy with the aid of solar power systems. Solar panels require no infrastructure, are easy to maintain and cost little to acquire. Still, very few people are able to make use of this windfall technology due to a lack of expertise. There simply aren’t enough qualified solar installers to install and maintain solar systems. The Barefoot College is working to change that.
Mahatma Ghandi found the people in rural villages to be capable and innovative. Although they lacked education, they were eager to learn new skills. He wanted to develop the skills of local villagers rather than rely in foreign expertise. It is upon this principle that the Barefoot College operates. Bhagwam Das is the coordinator of the Solar Education program: “The Barefoot College believes that development programmes don’t need urban-based professionals because para-professionals already exist in the villages whose wisdom, knowledge and skills are neither identified, mobilised nor applied just because they do not have an educational qualification.”
When members of a rural village express a desire for solar power systems, a Village Environmental Committee (VEEC) is formed. This committee consists of the village elders (both men and women). Households who wish to benefit from solar installations must contribute financially so that they have a sense of ownership of their solar system and will endeavour to take care of it. Payments are calculated according to income. The VEEC then selects members of the community who will travel to the Barefoot College in Rajasthan where they will study for six months. The Barefoot College encourages students of all ages and educational backgrounds. The villagers will build a small workshop for the Barefoot Solar Engineers (BSEs). A percentage of the fees paid by the villagers for their solar systems will go to the BSEs. This provides an opportunity for the poorest members of society to make an income. It means that those without education can acquire skills and it keeps the money generated by the village, in the village. BSEs must learn to assemble and install solar lamps, lanterns, choke coils, charge controllers and transformers. They must be able to install and maintain a solar system by themselves.
Over the last 25 years, the Barefoot Collage has trained thousands of people. They have installed 819. 88 KWP (Kilowatt Peak) across India and in 17 countries across South America, Africa and Asia. The solar installations have included lighting, parabolic solar cookers for healthy snacks, solar water heaters and solar powered desalination plants.
This worthy organizations relies on donations. If you wish to know more, visit the Barefoot College website.
We investigate innovative solar solutions to power problems.
Developing countries may not have running water, paved roads or electricity, but they do have mobile phones. Mobile phones enable even the very poor to communicate, access the Internet and pay for goods and services. Cell phones require power and for this, a different kind of infrastructure needs to be created.
The first obstacle is creating base stations in remote areas. The task of powering these stations has traditionally been the vestige of diesel generators. Apart from the obvious noise and air pollution; transporting fuel and generators, paying for diesel and theft have all been issues to surmount. By 2014, increased fuel prices and the decreased costs of renewable resources such as portable solar power systems make them the more attractive option. Once initial costs are recovered, ongoing maintenance is negligible. China mobile has already deployed 800 solar power cell sites in parts of China and Tibet.
In rural African towns, getting a cell phone charged may require travelling great distances. Solar powered phones are the partial answer to this conundrum. Phones without a battery are 40% cheaper, but can only be used during the day. Vodafone has released an improved product; eight hours of charging provides eight days of standby and four hours of talk time. The phone made its debut in India last year and cost only $32. Cheap phones are not the problem though; second hand phones are available in abundance from first world countries. Instead, providing cheap ways to recharge existing phones would be a welcome solution.
Enter stage left – the solar powered blanket. I kid you not. Local African sewing groups stitch flexible solar panels into blankets. The blankets fully charge in three hours, providing six watt hours of charge stored in an incorporated battery, enough to charge a cell phone and provide ten hours of bright white LED light. This innovative answer was designed by Portable Light iTEACH program in Kwa-Zulu Natal.
Small solar panels are fast becoming a popular alternative to power cell phones. Small solar panels are installed on village huts for an initial cost of $80 and are able to charge a cell phone and power four lights. Locals save on kerosene (normally used for lamps), charge other villagers to power their phones and make a little extra money.
The ultimate solution to power remote areas comes in the form of a portable power station. Meet the mobile solar work unit. These little beauties start at 12 feet in length and can go up to 20 feet and pack between 5 and 19kWh of solar power punch. Most third world countries have an abundance of sunshine and this amazing piece of hardware can supply enough power to run a small village, generate income, and help with remote builds or disaster relief. They are mobile and study and the trailer provides extra space for equipment storage.
How Sunlight Saves Disaster Victims
When natural disasters strike, the most desperate needs are for shelter, food and water. The disruption of electric services hamper relief efforts, expose victims to harsh environmental conditions and prevent hospitals and catering facilities from providing much-needed assistance to the population.
Water is the most urgent need and the team at MIT’s Space and Robotics Lab has come up with a prototype for a solar powered desalination unit. The device utilizes photovoltaic cells to power reverse osmosis pumps. These push water through a permeable membrane to remove impurities, salt and other minerals from sea water, and produce 80 gallons of fresh drinking water a day. The team plans to build a larger unit capable of increasing output to 1 000 liters a day. This unit can be used in disaster relief operations and also in areas which are remote enough to make provisions of water and electricity logistically challenging. A C-130 Cargo plane can transport up to a dozen of the larger units, providing water to 10 000 people.
In the past, diesel generators have been used to provide temporary electricity to disaster survivors, but these pose several problems. Generators are cumbersome and difficult to transport, especially to areas where roads, rail and bridges have been damaged. Generators require fossil fuel and produce large amounts of noise and air pollution. Improper use by inexperienced personnel has resulted in burns, fuel spills, fires, explosions and even asphyxiation. Transporting incendiary fuels during a disaster can be difficult at best.
Solar provides a good alternative. However, PV cells are fragile and break easily, making transport problematic. They also require experienced technicians to orient and assemble the panels, wiring and inverter while monitoring loads on the system. Enter stage left; the portable solar generator. These systems expedite the establishment of services to disaster stricken areas. Portable solar generators are self-contained and new developments in battery technology (deep cycle silicone batteries) ensure that they can operate for extended time periods, in extreme weather conditions, and unlike lead-acid batteries, they are environmentally friendly. If the terrain permits transportation, the trailer can charge while traveling. Alternatively, it can be airlifted to remote or cut-off areas. The trailer also provides room to transport supplies and provisions. Once it arrives on the scene, the portable solar generator is easy to set up and requires no expertise to run up to 3, 500 watt loads.