Real portable power from the sun, made simple
By Troy Saxton-Getty
In a recent article we covered the Nomad 7 ultra-portable solar panel for charging mobile phones and other small devices. In an hour or two from reasonable direct sunlight you can charge the typical mobile gadget. When we purchased the Nomad from Goal Zero we also purchased some additional solar gear which fits into the “transportable” category.
Specifically the Boulder 15w Panels, The battery power pack, LED Lantern and LED Light stick.
Goal Zero has made it extremely simple to setup, collect and store power from the sun. After spending years researching, buying and testing various solar power tools, Goal Zero is finally a company that has made it end-to-end simple and I mean like what we’ve come to expect in a user experience from the likes of Apple.
What could you use this stuff for? While the Nomad 7 is designed to go in your backpack, the Boulder 15 panels aren’t, but they can easily be transported to any location you might setup a camp site, temporary location, emergency situation or remote spot where you need power and you will also need it after dark, that is where a collection of simple plug and play products from Goal Zero come in.
First, the Panels, each produces about 15 watts with direct sunlight, this might not sound like much, but to give you some comparison, the Nomad 7 charged our empty iPhone 4 in less than 2 hours, it is a 7 watt panel.
What’s cool about these panels is the connectors, long and light-weight cords and simple ability to chain them together. You can connect up to 4 panels for a continuous 60 watts of DC power. From a transportable solar perspective, this is big power and connecting them is a plug-in affair. Each panel has a power connector module and a long cord, plug one into the next and so on until you have 4 in-line, the last one plugs into device directly with a standard 12v auto style power connector or into any of the battery packs Goal Zero offers.
Now combine that with their 800 watt power storage battery pack and you can collect power, store it and use it later when you need it. plug the last panel in the series right into the power pack and it starts charging and its fast.
The power pack has a USB port, a 12v auto style power connector and a 110v A/C wall outlet. In addition it has a simple “gas gauge” style LCD display to show the battery level. Now, you can’t run a high power gadgets like a blow dryer or curling iron (yes, these can consume 1500+ watts), you can run any of your basic wall plug electronics, lights etc.
Since standard lighting is not very power efficient, Goal Zero sells several LED lighting options, two of which we picked up to test, a multi-LED Lantern light and a direct LED light light bar, both of which have standard USB plugs, making it really simple to setup. Oh, btw, you can chain together the LED lights just like the solar panels, simply daisy chain them together using their USB plug, each light plugs into the next and you could effectively light the camp site or temporary location using one connection with multiple lights, you can even mix and match light types.
The LED light bar is a simple USB light bar that you would use to light up a desk or computer/work area, all of these LED lights use the latest low power, high-bright LED technology.
If you live in a area where the power goes out due to storms for example, this setup is perfect, charge in the day, run from the power pack at night. (you can charge the battery pack from the wall or car outlet just to keep it topped off too)
In using the panels to charge the power pack, we were able to use two panels and charge the battery with a typical afternoon of sunlight and with regular camping type use, the power pack was able to easily support the evening with plenty of power to spare. That included using a laptop plugged in for several hours.
The quality of the manufacturing is really high end, the technology is the latest in solar efficiency and the user experience is fantastic.
You never know when you might need extended emergency power, lights and the ability to re-charge without the grid, these products are designed like an ecosystem, each product works with the other, no special talent is required, plug and go.
Check their website, they have a very nice array of products, battery, connectors, lighting and panel options, you can find them at Costco at about 40% off of the pricing shown on the GoalZero website. I’ve been carrying the Nomad 7 in my regular backpack ever since testing it last month.
Finally, Solar power made simple and it works well, Bravo Goal Zero!