Solar yacht

Cool Stuff

OK, I admit it.  I gave in to the temptation to write about “cool stuff” today.  Even boring business people who spend most of their time puzzling over such topics as what temperature and quality of light would be best for a retail client, analyzing the financial impact of replacing an old but good wastewater treatment motor with a new and more efficient one, recommending the best type of insulation to transform an old Quonset hut into an office building, or deciding whether an industrial facility would learn more and improve their production process by installing instantaneous energy monitors on key pieces of equipment or on the production line as a whole – even people like us need to think about “cool stuff” every once in a while.

I like to hike, and I like to take LOTS of photos (especially when climbing uphill, an unobtrusive way to take a breath without anyone noticing – or at least commenting).  Unfortunately, I do not like to remember to charge the batteries in my camera.  Since I also live in New Mexico where there is lots of sun, and since hiking season is right around the corner (apologies to those of you on the East Coast of the US!) the “cool stuff” I am currently thinking about consists of portable solar chargers, which are really just small photovoltaic panels.


As everyone probably knows, solar panels were originally developed for space – where the sun is the major source of energy – and they have been adapted and improved in many ways over the years, providing energy in remote areas and in difficult situations.


Yes, it is true that for me, a portable solar charger is not really a necessity, but more of a “nice to have” tool.  Still, I need to consider how I would use one (should I actually give in to the “cool stuff” impulse…)  Do I want something that is inexpensive?  Efficient?  Light?  How will – oops “would” – I use it?  Portable solar chargers, like all renewable energy generation technologies, must be chosen or designed to fit that particular application.  My students will sometimes ask, “Which is better – solar or wind?” or “Which is better, a ground-mount solar system or one which is placed on the roof?”  The answer, no doubt an annoying one, is that “It depends…”  – on the use to which you will put the system, your local conditions, and many other factors.

solar-chargerAs I was doing my cool stuff research, I came across this comparison between solar chargers, which also goes into great detail about how to go about buying one.  And, not surprisingly, the information is presented with a note stating that the first thing anyone should do is to determine how they would use a portable solar panel, assessing each possibility in that light.  In other words, “Which is best?”  – “It depends….”

Enjoy your reading, and if you decide to purchase cool stuff like a portable PV panel, write and tell us what you like about it!  Or if you have other “cool stuff” ideas, please post; maybe others will be interested as well!

Enjoy YOUR cool stuff!