In January of each year, over 150,000 technology enthusiasts travel far and wide to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show, one of the largest international technology and electronics trade shows of the year. The rising popularity and necessity of solar photovoltaic technology has permeated into many different facets of consumer products. This year will undoubtedly show additional improvements of what has already been seen at CES, such as portable solar chargers and batteries. In consistency with past years, we should also expect to find new and creative uses of solar PV technology to increase the usability and practicality of almost any juice-sucking device.
Ascent Solar, known typically for their module production, will be showcasing a new consumer-friendly lineup of portable charging and energy storage products. The market for these types of personal energy systems has been quickly growing as the public consumer realizes the potential of “energy on the go” and “energy anywhere you are” possibilities. The increasing technology of rechargeable battery and energy storage has also helped to push these products into the mainstream. GoalZero, a personal-tech consumer panel and battery maker, was in attendance last year at CES with many portable and rugged panels that can charge a cell phone in direct sunlight from a panel that folds to be smaller than most tablets.
Combine either of these consumer panels with a battery storage system to create a reliable, day or night energy supply. Ascent markets their higher end panel and battery combinations as capable of “off the grid” living. As photovoltaic and battery storage technology continues to improve, we will rely less on our traditional sources of electricity delivery, and use more clean, eco-friendly power.
Personal, portable solar panels and battery storage is always one of the biggest appearances of solar technology at CES, but a rapidly growing secondary market is becoming more prevalent as the creative uses of PV technology are recognized. Many existing products and companies are integrating solar technology into their electronics to increase the usability and practicality of their devices. One such example we will see at CES this year is a wearable health monitor by Misfit, a maker of wearable tech products, with an elegant Swarovski crystal. The violet version of the waterproof health tracker includes a patented “energy crystal” that will keep the wireless device charged by sunlight, as well as constantly monitoring distance traveled, steps, calories burned, and sleep statistics. The batteries will never need to be replaced or charged, according to Misfit.
Another company, MPowerD, will be showcasing an emergency inflatable lantern with an integrated solar panel. It provides bright LED lighting from a charged battery, useful during blackouts, and rugged enough to use during extreme weather. It also features an emergency SOS flasher. Without the PV technology, batteries would be required to keep the device functional. By integrating the panel within the device, it has become infinitely more usable and practical in long-scale emergency situations. The inclusion of solar panels in everyday devices is creating a new category of electronics that are reaching new possibilities not seen before.
These few examples are only a small fraction of what should be expected at CES this coming week. Even automakers have jumped into the PV technology arena, with Ford showcasing the C-Max Hybrid car last year with a solar panel as the roof of the vehicle, providing energy to the batteries through the day from the sun’s light.
Almost any juice-sucking portable electronic product can be imagined to be made greater through the use of solar technology. It would appear that three things are needed to fuel PV tech products: the demand from consumers, the creativity of the developers, and the willingness of the manufactures to create them. 2015 will undoubtedly follow the previous years of increased practicality and presence of solar technology in personal consumer electronics.