Solar Panels

Organization for the development of Solar Panels

Personal Solar Panel Can Power Laptops

The U.S. Army is testing one at its South Pole station. Greenpeace International has ordered some for use in India. A dive boat operator is using one to run compressors and lights in the Caribbean.

A solar power unit that can be carried in a backpack was created by a Portland, Oregon, inventor and is already making its way around the world.

The Solar Power Pack contains a folding monocrystalline solar panel, battery, controller, plugs, cords and light. It weighs only 24 pounds but provides users with 120 watt-hours of power a day.

The unit can power AC and DC electronics up to 300 watts. It can be used in recreational vehicles as well as for field research, emergency home power, disaster relief and international aid.

After charging for six hours with the unit's solar photovoltaic panel, the Solar Power Pack can run a laptop computer for three hours or its own high-efficiency light for 14 hours.

"The Solar Power Pack is a personal solar power utility designed to be operated and transported by a single person," said Toby Kinkaid, founder and CEO of Solardyne Corporation, a developer and on-line retailer of renewable energy technology and high efficiency appliances.


An international traveler, Kinkaid came up with the idea for the solar backpack when he ran out of camera batteries while exploring Malaysia and the Maldives.

People in the Maldives, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, use noisy diesel generators for power, said Kinkaid. Getting fuel there is difficult, as it is in all remote areas.

Kinkaid studied physics in university and has been running a solar laboratory for 18 years. To reduce the cost of expensive solar electric cells, he developed a process that intensifies sunlight before it is converted into electricity.

His Mariposa solar module uses reflectors to concentrate twice the amount of solar energy onto half the number of the solar cells. "Reflectors cost $1 per square foot, he says. Solar cells cost $30 per square foot.

The result is a solar pack that sells for $549. The solar panel is designed to last 20 years. The battery lasts for 600 charge cycles, which equals about two years if the system is used daily. Once spent, the battery can be replaced and recycled.

Kinkaid discovered that he could rely on his invention when the battery in his old BMW car ran out of juice. "The solar pack unit was not even fully charged," he said, "but I put on the cable and jump-started my car."

Greenpeace ordered units for use in India. Solardyne has added a converter for Indian power that runs at a higher voltage than power in the United States. The package includes a water sterilizer powered by the solar pack that decontaminates tap water using ultraviolet rays.

"We are particularly excited about the prospect of humanitarian organizations using the Solar Power Pack for their relief efforts," Kinkaid said. "Imagine the difference these groups can make in people's lives by taking a portable source of ready power to Third World nations."

Copyright © 2004 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in ExtremeTech.