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.
Portable Solar Units help to keep Marines safe in Afghanistan.
To say that the Sangin district in Afghanistan is a hostile environment would be an understatement. British forces attempted to take control of the area for several years, but sustained heavy losses and recently handed over the area to US troops. The terrain is rough, the inhabitants belligerent and the elements harsh. The one thing it has in abundance is sunshine. Innovative personnel from the 3rd Battalion and 5th Marine Regiment have found a way to turn the blazing sun into a life-saving asset.
ExFOB – the Environmental Forward Operating Base – which consists of a number of portable solar units, provides personnel with a reliable source of energy. Energy is supplied by the following portable solar units:
- Radios are powered by Solar Portable Alternate Communication Systems (SPACES) which are flexible, portable solar panels that can be carried in a pack.
- Lighting in tents is provided by PowerShade – a tarp made of solar material that fits over the tent.
- Computers are powered by Ground Renewable Expeditionary Energy Systems (GREENS) which are portable solar units that are easy to assemble and transport,
- The majority of the base’s power is provided by a ZeroBase Regenerator – a portable solar array capable of sustaining 20 lighting systems and 15 computers.
Aside from the positive environmental benefits and reductions in fuel costs, ExFOB portable solar units supply personnel with essential energy for logistics and communications. The 20 gallons of fuel utilized daily have been reduced to 2.5 gallons. This significantly curtails the number of supply convoys needed; providing fewer opportunities for convoy drivers to fall victim to IEDs. Since Marines have to carry less fuel and fewer generators, they have more space for supplies and ammunition. They are more mobile and have a constant, reliable source of energy. The sound of running generators carries in the barren landscapes of Sangin. Noiseless solar panels help to conceal the position of the base. All these factors contribute to saving lives.
Major General Sadlier said of the units using this experimental technology: “The Marines were very innovative and came up with ways to use the equipment that was not even thought of before their employment.” In the hands of capable Marines, portable solar units are kicking ass and taking names.
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.
Kenya recently received the first mobile solar internet cafe. Six solar panels provide 12 hours of power to the 11 flat screen computers which run off a Pentium PC. The panels last up to 25 years and the containers can be shipped and set up in a matter of minutes using cellular, WiFi or VSAT connections. The idea was developed by UK based NGO, Computer Aid International which refurbishes and distributes computers to developing countries. To date, over 175 000 PCs have made their way to over 100 developing countries thanks to these philanthropic pioneers.
In developing countries, power is a problem. That’s when the creative crew came up with the concept of the solar powered internet cafe in a sea container. The container was designed in the UK and shipped to Nairobi.
Plans are afoot for more mobile cafes across the world. These cafes can be used to connect remote communities, gain exposure for NGO’s and provide online education for teachers, students and health care workers.
Some disadvantages of this system are the costs of sea containers, shipping and the difficulty in transporting the sea containers to remote areas on what we would hesitate to call a road. SolarLine’s portable solar generators offer solutions to these problems. Solar panels are mounted onto a trailer, which provides users with space for equipment. The generators require almost no maintenance or fossil fuels and produce zero emissions. Sturdy trailers make for easy transportation in difficult conditions.