Solar energy is getting easier and more affordable to use at home. But what about for those who live life on-the-go? In this post we look at 5 portable solar solutions made for the mobile generation.
- Solar Powered Chargers
- Solar Powered Backpacks
- Solar Powered Speakers
- Solar Powered Chargers for Camper Vans
- Solar Powered Lights
- Final Thoughts
Solar power is becoming a more viable option with every passing day.
Advancements in technology coupled with the looming climate crisis has resulted in more and more affordable options on the market that provide a reliable and cost effective alternative to the grid.
But you don't need to own a home to benefit from solar energy. Due to growing demand for portable renewable energy sources a lot of innovative companies are developing and now selling affordable, high-quality and very useful solutions.
Read on to learn about 5 types of portable solar power systems designed for people on the move.
Solar Powered Chargers
Solar powered chargers are probably the most common solar powered device used by people on the move.
As you probably already know, the devices harness the power of the sun which is then used to charge devices such as mobile phones.
If you are at a park, a music festival or hanging out at the beach you can keep your devices charged as long as there is enough sunlight to power the charger.
The chargers come in a variety of different shapes and designs - ranging from the solid brick style chargers to foldable units that can be extended and attached to your backpack for example.
Some things to keep in mind when shopping for a solar powered charger are:
- Power - often measured in watts, more watts will mean faster charging and more capacity to charge power-hungry devices like notebooks and tablets. Aim for at least 7 watts to charge phones but 15 to 20 watts if you plan on charging multiple devices
- Ports - the more expensive ones will come with multiple ports but be sure to make sure your device can connect to it. USB A ports are pretty common which can be used to charge most devices
Solar Powered Backpacks
Solar powered backpacks are backpacks that usually have one or multiple solar panels (cells) stitched into the bag.
For people outside doing a lot of walking, hiking or traveling these bags are a fantastic way to harness the sun's energy while on the move. The rear facing solar cells or panels don't add that much more weight or discomfort to wearing the bag meaning you often forget that you are converting energy from the sun while on the go.
Cell technology has not only gotten more efficient meaning they can harness more of the suns energy but they have become much lighter and thinner.
The higher quality packs will have higher watt charging capacity, a better backpack with storage for laptops and cameras and also the ability to charge DSLR cameras, phones and computers.
Remember that unless you are using the energy as the solar cells are converting it, the system uses a battery to store the energy for later use.
So when looking at different backpacks be sure to check the battery storage capacity which is usually stated in volts. For example a backpack might come in 50V or 75V so be sure to get something with a battery that can store the amount of power you're likely going to need.
Solar Powered Speakers
Bluetooth speakers are pretty common these days. It's rare to go camping or to a BBQ and not see them appear to provide some music for the moment.
One of the problems with typical units is charging them when you're nowhere near a power outlet.
This is where solar powered units prove to be invaluable. The speaker will charge itself while there is sunlight and then use the stored energy to keep the good times rolling after dark.
The better speakers on the market will let you charge your device from the speaker, and some will also plug into a standard wall socket for charging if there isn't enough sun around.
If you're interested in powering your music with the sun, check out our solar powered bluetooth speakers. We also plant a tree with every product purchased meaning listening to your favourite tunes will help restore forest landscapes back to health at home in America and all over the world.
Solar Powered Chargers for Camper Vans
The idea of getting a camper van and living life on the road was once a lifestyle and industry dominated by retired couples or 'grey-haired nomads' as my parents like to call themselves.
However with rising costs of rent we are seeing an increase in nomadic millennials seeking refuge from office life by living on the road.
The solar systems in camper vans are one of the key components to living a sustainable and comfortable life on the road, but before you strap your surfboard to the roof there are a few setups to consider.
For RVs, camper vans and motorhomes, the solar systems are usually Off-grid systems or On-grid (grid-tie solar systems).
Off-grid systems mean that energy is stored in batteries to be used when you need. In these systems, the main components are:
- Solar panels - can either be fixed to the vehicle or unfixed
- Charge controllers - controls the amount of power sent to the battery
- Battery storage - stores the electricity in DC voltage
- Inverters - converts DC charge to AC current which common appliances use
On-grid systems (grid-tie solar systems)
These are the most common systems found in vehicles today. For these setups, you can use power directly from the panels while they are generating energy and after the sun goes down, you can tap into the grid and power your appliances.
On-grid systems are usually cheaper than off-grid systems but after the sun sinks and fades below the horizon, you'll need a powered site to use a lot of your appliances.
If you are interested in living life on the road there are a lot of in-depth guides that explain in detail the components, how the systems are installed and also the costs that come with it.
Solar Powered Lights
Solar powered lights are the thing you didn't realise you needed until you have one. Depending on the size of the light, they'll come in handy while traveling, hiking, camping or in emergency situations when the power goes out.
There are some quality products currently available that can provide up to 24 hours of light with a single charge.
Depending on the unit, it can take from 5 to 15 hours to charge the light but generally you want to find something that gives you light for 1.5x the charge time.
The better units can provide light for about double the charge time meaning charging for 10 hours gives you 20 hours of light. That's a lot of light.
Of course, unless you live in a valley in Scandinavia, you probably don’t need constant light for 24 hours so 2 - 3 hours of solar charge should get you enough light for midnight trips to the bathroom.
Mirrors in the Mountains
Interestingly, there are some people that do need light for nearly 24 hours because of the lack of sun in the winter. There is a town called Rjukan in Norway that lives in constant darkness in the winter due to towering mountains either side of the town that block the little sunlight that Norway sees in the winter.
The image below shows Rjukan in the vast shadow cast from the mountain above.
In order to get some light in their lives, an innovative approach was used where 3 giant mirrors were placed in the mountains above in order to reflect light down into the town during winter.
The giant mirrors each span 17 metres in area and combined they create around 600m2 of light in the market below!
Read more about this excellent example of Norwegian ingenuity here.
Anxiously looking around for a power outlet to save your device from dying is something we all experience on a near daily basis. This is exacerbated while traveling but with the rise of portable solar technology this may become a thing of the past.
Solar technology has come a long way in the last 20 years but there are still limitations to its efficiency that the industry and scientific community is working hard to solve.
Currently, solar cells convert between 17-19% of the light's energy that comes into contact with it but the solar community has its sights set on the lofty goal of 30% efficiency.
Crossing this milestone would be a huge breakthrough for the solar cell industry and would lead to solar energy surpassing fossil fuels to become the world's most important energy source.
But there's no need to wait until then, if you're traveling or live life on-the-go you can take advantage solar power today and free yourself from the outlet in the wall and constant life on the grid.