Container Roll Out Solar System – Portable Solar

ARENA (the Australian Renewable Energy Agency) have awarded a grant to ECLIPS Engineering to design, manufacture, and test its ‘diesel killer’ portable solar offering, the Container Roll Out Solar System (CROSS). 

Container Roll Out Solar System – ECLIPS

Container Roll Out Solar System CROSS
Container Roll Out Solar System CROSS (source: eclips.engineering)

ECLIPS Engineering (formerly Sea Box International) are a Canberra based engineering firm hoping to do their part to help Australia do away with diesel generators in situations where a temporary power supply is required. They have created factory assembled 20 and 40 foot long solar panel arrays which fit in shipping containers and have minimal setup / teardown time. 

According to RenewEconomy, each 20ft unit has 2.1kW of power, and 7 of them can fit in a shipping container. The 40ft units has up to 4.3kW and can also fit seven to a container. 

ARENA have given CROSS $703,468 to to help the project, which has aims more lofty than just replacing diesel generators at work sites – the Container Roll Out Solar System could also help in defence situations, disaster recovery, for humanitarian needs, or for ‘temporary network augmentation’ (i.e. helping the grid if it’s malfunctioning or under severe stress).

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht spoke about funding the project, and how they hope to see an eventual replacement of diesel generators in 99% of cases:

“CROSS units can be deployed in off-grid and fringe-of-grid areas, displace or offset diesel consumption and improve the security of existing networks,” he said.

“These renewable options can reduce some of the barriers to entry for potential renewable power users in remote locations, including short project durations and where power systems need to be periodically relocated,” Frischknecht said.

“Renewable energy can provide an emissions-free, silent energy system that could replace diesel generators in the long run.”

We’ve already reported on the Maverick by 5B, which is another prefab, low-cost ground mounted solar array – it’s great to see some more options available to try and minimise the amount of diesel generators used as a temporary power supply. 

We’ll keep you posted how the project goes and what the next steps are!

 

Solar Camping Roundup – Products for Camping/Hiking

If you’re an avid camper or hiker, I’m sure you’ve already seen some of your fellow outdoor lovers using portable solar to charge their electronics while on the trail or at the campsite. Gone are the days when using a heavy (and expensive!) generator, wasting your car battery, or, even worse, using traditional non-rechargeable batteries were the only ways to charge electronics or run lights at the campsite. Solar camping is the way of the future! 

The rapid proliferation of advancements in solar panel technology has led to some exciting new ideas in the world of portable solar panels. So if you enjoy hiking, camping, (or you do and your family can’t live without their phones!) have a look at some of the options which are available to people who want to use recharge with renewable energy when they’re out in the wild. 

Buy Camping Solar Products in Australia

There a number of retailers in Australia offering a huge range of great products, from portable solar panels, foldable solar panels, solar torches, power banks to store the energy in, and much more. Quality can vary quite considerably so make sure you do your due diligence before purchasing anything too expensive. 

Kathmandu have a small range of products for campers and hiker such as the Goal Zero range of panels and some Kathmandu branded Power Banks and Hand Torches. 

Solar Camping – Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus Panel and GoalZero Solar Battery (source: kathmandu.com.au)
Solar Camping – Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus Panel and GoalZero Solar Battery (source: kathmandu.com.au)

 

Tentworld offers a range of foldable and rollable solar panels from brands such as Goal Zero, PowerFilm, Engel, and OZtrail. 

Some other amazing products we’re interested in (let us know if you’d like us to do a full review on any of these so I have an excuse to buy them!)

  • Eton Scorpion – A radio with 3.5mm input, a solar panel, and a hand crank which powers the device and even external USB devices. Don’t expect massive power, but very hand to have in a pinch. 
  • Earl Tablet – A camping gadget with a GPS chipset, connects to a VHF and UHF transceiver, can connect to analog and digital frequencies, and can provide up to 20 hours of battery life after five hours of sunlight charging. 
  • Lumos Solar Backpack – A solar camping backpack with a 3 watt solar panel and a 2200 mAh battery built in. Very reasonably priced, too! 
  • Companion Deluxe Portable Solar Shower – A 20L bag you fill up and leave out in the sun during the day. Built in water temperature gauge. 
  • Energizer Solar 4LED Rechargeable Spotlight – A simple rechargeable solar flashlight. Runs for 3.5 hours after 5 hours of charge and is totally waterproof.
  • Rock Out 2 Solar Rechargeable Speaker – A waterproof solar powered Bluetooth speaker which provides 10 hours of surprisingly quality sound on an 8 hour charge. 
  • Solar Car Battery Charger – An inexpensive 1.5 watt panel which can help ensure your battery stays charged when you’re away from your vehicle. Clip it onto your battery or plug it into the cigarette lighter. 
  • Solarmonkey Charger – A lightweight, waterproof and shock resistant portable solar panel. Will charge in around 8 hours and has an internal lithium-ion battery which stores a respectable 3500mAh.

Solar Powered Tents

Cinch Pop Up Tents offer an addon called the Cinch! Solar Power Pack which connects to the top of their extensive range of tents. The power pack includes a flexible silicon panel and a power bank so you can use the energy generated at night. They even have LED tent pegs so you won’t lose your tent or knock into one in the dark! 

Have a look at their promotional video for the Cinch solar tents below:

Solar Camping Panel Product Reviews

Is there a product you’re interested in buying and would like a review on? Leave your request in the comments and we’ll take a look for you! 

Alternatively, have you tried one of the products mentioned here and have an opinion? What did you like and what don’t you like about it? Please let us know, we’d love to hear about how you went. 

Solar Paper by YOLK – solar phone charger.

Solar company Yolk have released their ‘solar paper’ mobile phone charger. This lightweight, portable solar charger pairs with mobile phones, tablets, and powerbanks with high efficiency and a reasonable price. 

About Solar Paper

YOLK Solar Paper
YOLK Solar Paper (source: yolkstation.com)

The Solar Paper product was launched via a successful Kickstarter in 2015 where they raised over $1 million – it’s now been brought to market and you’re able to purchase one from the official YOLK website.

The Solar Paper comes in four models (all prices are in USD):

  • 5 Watts ($148)
  • 7.5 Watts ($198)
  • 10 Watts ($248)
  • 15 Watts ($348)

It’s able to output 5V, with 500mA regulated output per panel. The device is modular (extra panels can be connected via magnets) and additional 2.5 watt solar panels are $60 each. 

According to the official site, Solar Paper measures 9 x 19 x 1.1 cm when folded, and each panel weighs 65-75 grams (2.5 oz). Watt-for-watt, that makes it 70% smaller and lighter than competing products (no word on which products they’re speaking of, though). Solar Paper is 1.1 cm deep at its thickest point, making it suitable for a multitude of uses, like camping, hiking, or carrying around in backpacks/handbags. 

It has auto reset technology – so you don’t have to unplug and replug the cable every time you step into the shade (usually a drop in voltage would cause your device to ‘uncouple’ from the charger, requiring manual repairing).

The product is IP54 water resistant and includes an LCD meter to show how well the panels are working. One thing to note is that it doesn’t have any sort of storage included – so you could couple it with an inexpensive power bank such as one of the Xiaomi models so you can charge that if your phone is full. 

It won’t be able to charge something like a Macbook due to different voltages. You could, however, charge a power bank that’s suitable for Macbooks and then charge through that!

About YOLK

Korean based YOLK launched their first solar charger “Solarade” in 2014 via Kickstarter – it raised $72,000 and was moderately successful. Since then, they’ve been focusing on making solar power as portable and cheap as possible. The reviews on Amazon are good and the founding team (Sen Chang and Lim Sam) have since expanded rapidly. No word on their next product but hopefully it won’t be long! 

Buy YOLK Solar Paper 

The YOLK Station website has the Solar Paper + Pouch available for purchase worldwide – with a flat shipping fee of $22 USD. Cost ranges from $148 USD – $348 USD.

You can also purchase them on Amazon by clicking here

If you want a cheaper option, the Anker 21W solar charger is also available. We’ll do a review on them next! 

Maverick by 5B – a prefab, low-cost solar array.

Australian company 5B have launched the Maverick (MAV) portable solar farm – their easily-transported large-scale portable solar farm with a continuous array design. Because of this, a solar farm built with MAV can generate between 180 – 200% more MWh per hectare than fixed tilt or single axis tracking designs. This could be a game changer for farmers, remote communities, film crew, or anyone who needs to use a large amount of power and don’t have grid access. Launched in July this year, the ‘solar farm in a box’ has been gaining traction for anyone looking for portable solar in Australia. 

Maverick Portable Solar Array by 5B
Maverick Portable Solar Array by 5B (source: 5b.com.au)

Maverick Portable Large-Scale Solar Farm

The Maverick is a continuous array, which means DC cables don’t need to be trenched, saving setup time and reducing the potential for any errors when setting up. According to the 5B website, two people are able to roll out a 12kW MAV in ten minutes with ‘standard site vehicles’. Here are some further stats on the MAV:

  • Ground mounted DC solar array of 32 or 40 PV modules.
  • Any 60/72 cell standard framed PV module can be used if you want to choose (they come with Jinko panels by default).
  • Each MAV weighs approximately three tonnes. 
  • MAV is 5m wide and 16m/20m long (32/40 modules) once deployed.
  • Modulates oriented in a concertina shape at 10-degree tilt (electronically configured and ready for integration at site).
  • Simple deployment via a forklift and 2-3 people. As per the 5B tagline – “100 kilowatts fully installed before lunch, and 1 megawatt in a week” – pretty impressive!

They’re modular as well; you can ship four 32-module MAVs in a standard ISO 20 foot container (similar to the Renovagen solar carpet we discussed yesterday)

Click here to download the MAV product brochure. You can also view a video from 5B below which shows how the Maverick solar array works. Have you had any experience with the MAV? How did you find it? Please let us know in the comments. 

Renovagen commercial-scale portable solar power

UK-based Renovagen has been doing some exciting work in the field of portable solar, with commercial-scale portable solar power systems utilising their ‘rapid roll’ technology recently deployed at Flat Holm, in the UK. They’re also working on rolling out (sorry) this technology on a much larger scale – their “Rapid Roll I” will fit in ISO shipping containers and could be a complete game changer in terms of commercial-scale portable solar power. 

Renovagen’s ‘Solar Carpet’ and Flat Holm

Flat Holm is a small island in the Bristol Channel, five miles off the south Wales coast. Traditionally, providing electricity for it has been a ‘challenge’, according to Flat Holm team leader Natalie Taylor. It has no mains supply and the island has been using old solar panels and diesel generators. 

Gareth Harcombe, energy and sustainability manager at Cardiff Council said: “We were looking at solar and hydro, but that takes up a lot of land and land in cities is expensive. But there is a lot of land that we have that’s available whilst it waits for other opportunities. So this was a question about how we could generate electricity in a way that was portable, so once the site is needed for something else it can be moved on.”

That’s where Renovagen came in – their “rapid roll” roll-up solar panels are providing an average of 11KW of power – enough for four residents and visits from tourists. The system includes batteries capable of storing 24KW/h of power, which is about a day’s worth of the island’s energy requirements. This is a fantastic and cost-effective interim solution until they decide what the optimal choice for Flat Holm’s electricity generation will be. 

Renovagen Solar Carpet
Renovagen Rapid Roll “Solar Carpet” deployed at Flat Holm, UK (source: renovagen.com)

About Renovagen

John Hingley, Renovagen Managing Director, started work on this scaled-up mobile solar technology in 2012. It’s now the leading UK startup in commercial-scale portable solar power systems. They fully funded a £1,000,000 equity investment pitch via the UK crowdfunding platform, Crowdcube, in April last year – to help the speed up the development and go-to-market costs of their “Roll-Away” rapid roll portable solar systems. The company had hoped to raise £600,000 in equity funding so this was a great result. 

Currently based in Milton Keynes, their technology has been growing in leaps and bounds – take a look at the video below to learn more about how it works:

Rapid Roll Overview Video Presentation Sept 2016 from John Hingley on Vimeo.

Renovagen Rapid Roll “I”

The Renovagen Rapid Roll “I” is one of the most exciting of their products – currently under development, this portable solar power solution will come in an ISO (International Standards Organization or intermodal, i.e. a standardised size) shipping container and can provide enough power (depending on how technology goes, this could be up to 600kWp, according to Renovagen) for a small city. 

The idea of mobile and portable industrial size scale solar power one is extremely exciting and it has a lot of potential uses. The Rapid Roll “I” will fit in 20ft ISO or 40ft ISO containers and will be able to deploy 5x200m and 10x200m of solar panels respectively.

It comes complete with inverters and a large battery bank (specifics not available yet). 

Commercial-Scale Portable Solar Power

There are many uses for commercial-scale portable solar – off grid power in remote locations is extremely expensive and complicated to set up. Military, disaster relief, mining, construction, events, film production, and telecommunications are all situations where this ‘container solar’ idea could provide a huge help at a cost-effective price. 

If they’re able to scale this technology quickly, imagine how useful it’d be in situations like Puerto Rico where Hurricane Maria has left their ravaged state-owned utility PREPA trying frantically to restore power to the island’s 3.4 million residents. Elon Musk and Tesla has stepped in – they’ve been shipping their Powerpack and Powerwall batteries over there and there’s talk of installing a Tesla microgrid in Puerto Rico, but it’ll still be months before grid power is restored to anywhere but places that need it the most urgently (hospitals, authorities, etc.)

This is one of the biggest breakthroughs in portable solar of the past 10 years – so we’ll see what happens in the wake of Flat Holm and keep you updated. Very exciting stuff for solar!

Portable Solar Tech SunSHIFT given $2.1m by ARENA.

The government have announced $2.1m in funding for portable solar tech (‘pop-up solar’), as per an announcement from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) last Thursday. This represents a step in the right direction in terms of replacing ‘dirty’ and expensive diesel generators with (for the most part) clean, portable energy solutions in rural and fringe-of-grid areas. These portable solar generators will be manufactured by a company called SunSHIFT, which has been established by Laing O’Rourke.

SunSHIFT Portable Solar by Laing O’Rourke

The money has been invested in a new technology which combines a PV system with battery storage. The system is also complemented by a diesel/gas generator as a backup energy source. The SunSHIFT portable solar machines will be modular 1MW blocks which could be used, initially, in tandem with conventional energy generation. ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht noted in the AFR that this mobile solar tech could be particularly useful for short-medium term projects, where the relatively long payback period of solar energy would not be feasible.

“Projects that only last a handful of years, like construction and mining operations, could benefit from SunSHIFT without having to rely on the typical 20-plus year payback period for solar installations,” Frischknecht said.

The SunSHIFT blocks have also been lauded by Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg who was quoted as saying “This innovation means several locations can benefit from a single plant, without any one site needing to commit to a permanent installation.”

Portable Solar SunSHIFT Blocks
Mobile Solar – SunSHIFT Blocks (source: sunshift.com)

SunSHIFT Technical Specifications and more information.

  • Each 1MW block will contain 2400 (435kw) solar panels.
  • Each panels/inverter/transformer/storage unit will occupy ~1.25ha
  • Designed to fit in shipping containers.
  • Cost less than providing diesel power to regional sites (the transportation of diesel fuel can run up to 30% of cost of energy)
  • Targeted at mining companies.
  • Buy-out option available.
  • Click here to read a fact sheet from SunSHIFT about their product.