Portable solar power gear worth buying… (no, really!)
by Troy Saxton-Getty
We’ve been watching, buying and experimenting with several different solar power products on the market over the past few years, usually this effort starts with spending a bunch of money which gets you marginal results and you end up at the thought that Solar for portable power isn’t practical, affordable or very useful yet and the industry needs more time and product efficiency.
After doing a little research a bit ago we were surprised to run across www.goalzero.com and we were really hopeful that once we got our hands on some of their products, we might be pleasantly surprised. What was even more surprising is we found that Costco recently did a deal with them covering several key products at 40% or better off of their website retail store pricing.
We purchased several products which we will write about over time, here is the first product we tested from GoalZero:
Nomad 7 Solar Panel (folding/portable)
Right out of the box one of the most impressive things we noticed is how integrated the products are. For example, the Builder 15 panels can work alone, or you can chain up to four together, the connectors are simple and sturdy with enough cord to allow for great direct sunlight placement.
Each product comes with simple connector accessories, like 12v car power port type plugs, and standard USB plugs.
Let’s start with the Nomad 7 folding portable solar panel:
This folding portable panel is very efficient, we were able to take our test iPhone4 from 73% to 90% in late afternoon sunlight in less than 18 minutes, the documentation says it will fully charge the average smartphone is 1.5 hours from empty in solid direct sunlight.
This is 2-3 times faster then any of the other solar gear we have previously tested.
So as to not overheat your phone in extreme summer sunlight, keep it in the shade behind the panel or in the inclosed pocket on the back of the folding panel. You will also need your phone’s normal USB charging cable which simply plugs into the USB port on the Nomad 7.
Keep in mind, the Nomad 7 Solar Panel does not have on-board battery storage, you simply point the panel into the most direct sunlight and plug in your smartphone or other USB powerable device. The Nomad 7 is a sturdy and semi-flexible portable unit that folds up easily with a velcro fastener.
The Goal Zero rep told me there is a $59.95 USD (full retail) battery charger option which can be connected that holds 4 AA/AAA rechargeable batteries with an average full charge time of about 90 minutes in decent direct sunlight. (Included with the product are 4 AA rechargeable batteries) This opens up a plethora of options as well as charing your phone or other USB device outside of sunlight hours. http://www.goalzero.com/shop/p/8/Guide-10-Battery-Pack/2:1/ unfortunately they were out of stock when we purchased our test gear.
This is the first time we have had a seamless, simple and effective portable solar power product in our hands!
What a fantastic product from what appears to be a very progressively thinking and disruptive solar products company, all of the other portable solar products companies should be concerned about these guys..
All-in, this is a great product when you need power, you can top off any device that uses a USB or a automobile style 12v power port plug as they include a power port dongle with the product.
We purchased several other products from GoalZero and will continue to use these tools and report on them over time as we use them in the real world.