Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Nanosolar: Portable panels... a new toy

With a few kilowatts of generating power on my roof, I'm putting my money where my mouth is, and expecting to see it come back relatively quickly. But how about a solar charger for my phone when I'm out?

I've been looking at portable solar panels for a while, and saw one that would fold out over your backpack, or could be set up in a camp. At only a few hundred grammes it seemed appealing, although in one review it didn't score so well. The technology is still at the early-adopter phase, and if they were software, a lot of the products going on the market would be referred to as Beta, and given out for free

I did pick one up at a stall next to the park in Seoul's arty area of Hongdae. I'm sure if I'd gone to a bigger market or one of the digital areas there would have been a much wider range. I bargained him down from 15 to 13 thousand Won (knock the last nought off for Yen, the thousand for US dollars, or call it ten quid).

I checked the packaging and instructions and found no indication of a manufacturer or brand. Except that it was Made in China. The guy behind the stall was lamenting that nothing was made in Korea any more and all his wares were made in China. The world's biggest brand. I'm not sure whether the manufacturer name was missing because it was just designed to survive being purchased or because the manufacturers makes goods licensed for someone else and doesn't want to get caught by them.
Technically it's pretty simple. There's a one-watt panel on the front and a battery inside.  A red light comes on when it's charging. But, as the instructions warn, this will come on if there is any charge coming off the panels at all, and it really needs full sunlight to charge the batteries.

There is also a test button that lights a mini LED torch and shows the battery power with an array of LEDs. There are two USB sockets to charge devices, and a mini USB socket you can use to charge the internal battery from a computer.

The battery is rated at 2000 milli amp hours. Actually it's written 2000 MAh, and by convention a capital M is mega, so this would be 2 giga amp hours. That would take the array on my house about two month to charge! In fact this panel should fully charge the battery in two hours.

I was looking for an Israeli military device, which was a wire that connects to your knees, but instead I found a baton-shaped mechanical charger that you can put in your backpack and it will charge as you walk.

(Written in 2012, and I've still hardly used this toy!)