We rely on technology more than ever now, especially portable gadgets like iPhones, MP3 players, laptops and navigation. The rapid development of the smartphone and tablet computing is only going to exacerbate our dependence on technology, portable in particular. So how are solar chargers helping?
Battery manufacturers are understandably happy about this. They are doing more business than ever as they struggle to keep up with the demand manufacturers are making of them. It isn’t all about volume, it’s also about efficiency.
One of the main downsides of batteries is their limited life. Even though Lithium-Ion technology has taken us far, it still has a long way to go before it eradicates all the downsides of using batteries. The average smartphone can last 48 hours between charges, less if you use it a lot. The iPhone and iPod are notorious energy hogs, sometimes draining a battery in hours.
If you’re out camping, walking, or on the beach, the last thing you want to see is a low power warning on your phone. For a while, the only option you had when away from mains power was to charge it in the car, or wait until you got home.
Fortunately, solar chargers came along. A smaller, more compact version of the solar panels you see on roofs that generate electricity from sunlight. The advent of the mobile solar charger meant there was now the opportunity to charge a phone battery while on the move. If you have access to sunlight, you had access to electricity.
While these chargers were in their infancy, they weren’t very efficient and they only worked on certain phones. When universal connections came along, the applications for solar chargers increased dramatically. As long as the panel could generate enough voltage, you could power almost any portable device.
Suddenly, worrying about running out of battery became a thing of the past. All you had to do was put a solar charger in your pocket and set it up when you needed power.
That was fine, as long as you live somewhere sunny. To begin with, chargers weren’t very efficient and had a hard time pulling energy from diffuse light, such as on a cloudy day. As the technology progressed, the ability to charge from indirect sunlight improved until it became viable for those not fortunate enough to live near the Gulf Coast.
With any new technology there is always innovation. From the somewhat clunky solar chargers of old, we now have a range of implementations to work with. Everything from roll-up charger mats, solar backpacks, solar camping gear, lights and much more.
While these products aren’t exactly setting the world on fire, they are slowly creeping into mainstream consciousness. As more and more people wake up to the possibilities of solar power, the products will become cheaper, and more efficient.
While the environmental impact may be negligible when taken in isolation, the more people learn to love solar power, the more likely they are to embrace it in other parts of their lives.