Home Server Land is dedicated to bringing to light and introducing innovative products, cool ideas, and latest news and updates on the connected home. This time around we thought it would be interesting to learn about the energy savings, and emergency preparedness with solar power.
Thanks to Barry Renz, owner of Powerenz, Inc., a company that designs and assembles portable solar power systems for military use, adventure, and environmentally conscious, we are fortunate to introduce our readers to the benefits and uses of this revolutionary product.
Could you take a brief minute to introduce yourself and talk about your company and its products?
My name is Barry Renz, and I represent Powerenz, Inc., a small technical company with shops in Georgia and Indiana. We design and assemble portable solar power systems for applications ranging from military to adventure to environmental consciousness. Our systems are easy to carry and perfect when you need a portable off-grid power system. For every imaginable situation, and even some that haven’t yet occurred to us, we can build and customize a power system to nearly anyone’s exact specifications, including:
- Wilderness travel and photography
- Camping (supporting a wide array of electronics)
- Remote field research and scientific work
- Emergency power generators
- Marine solar chargers
- Survival situations
- Search, rescue and disaster relief
- Military applications
- Solar back-up generators.
If you use critical electronic devices that must have power when the grid fails, or when there is no grid, you have come to the right place.
At a high-level how does portable solar technology work?
When sunlight strikes the elements that are contained in the solar cells, electrons are set in motion, and electricity/power is produced. That electricity/power is used to charge a variety of batteries, thus storing the energy that is produced by the solar cells. The batteries provide the energy to power up a variety of electronic devices, thereby allowing one to use such devices in the absence of the grid.
The primary components of the portable system, i.e. solar panel, solar charge controller, and battery, can be moved easily from one location to another.
Other than disaster scenarios, what other advantages do you see in getting portable solar power instead of fixed-location solar power systems?
The critical advantage is that of portability or mobility. If the need arises to move one’s operation from point A to point B, the portable solar power systems may be folded up, packed up, and carried away in a matter of minutes.
Portable systems are lighter in weight, and smaller in volume than their stationary cousins who are much larger and heavier. Portable systems can be transported or carried into locations where larger systems cannot go. For example, people who struggle with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome cannot sleep at night unless they are able to use a CPAP machine to help them breathe. As a result, they are unable to go camping overnight away from the grid unless they have another source of power for their CPAP machine.
A portable solar power system is a perfect solution to their problem, and will allow such people the freedom to camp out overnight. Another example is the scientist who must perform research or an activity in a remote area that has no access to the grid. Instead of as noisy fuel generator that creates smoke, a scientist could take advantage of a silent, non-smoke producing, and portable solar power system that will provide power as long as the sun shines. A third example is the soldier who can carry their own power supply that will provide enough power to operate all of their gear, instead of relying on liquid fuel which is extremely expensive to transport into war zones.
Given a disaster scenario such as an earthquake, flood or hurricane – how do you see your product power critical devices?
Typically, the day after a hurricane occurs, the skies are clear blue and sunny. Search and rescue teams, insurance company personnel, medical teams, and security personnel can infiltrate a disaster zone, and use small, light-weight solar power systems to operate all of their critical equipment.
Small energy-efficient refrigeration units can be operated to keep medical supplies cool or cold. Lighting systems, flashlights, head lamps, etc. can be recharged for use in dark areas. Critical communication radios, sat phones, cell phones, etc. can all be operated via portable solar power systems.
When I think of solar panels I think of glass which is very fragile. How are your products constructed to remain operational and robust under strenuous environmental conditions? For example, would it continue to work if there’s a crack in the panel?
Our light-weight, foldable, flexible, highly-efficient solar panels have several key advantages, namely compactness, the ability to be folded and packed away in seconds, no breakable glass, and their weight.
Like aluminum-framed glass solar panels, our light-weight foldable are water and weather-proof, and are very durable. They can be walked on, driven over, and accidentally perforated. They will continue to produce power, though less-than-optimal.
In addition to batteries deteriorating over time, are there any other components that require special care or maintenance?
The solar panels should be kept clean, and can be hosed off with water, rinsed, or wiped clear with a wet towel when necessary. Otherwise, there is no specific maintenance required. Our LFP battery packs have a very long lifespan compared to lead acid batteries, and they weigh less than half that of a lead acid battery of comparable charge capacity. The LFP battery packs should be charged completely from time to time.
How safe are the materials and how safe is it to handle electricity?
Like batteries, solar panels produce direct current (DC) which at lower voltages is completely safe, and cannot cause shocks or electrocution. If an inverter is used to produce alternating current (AC), that must be treated the same way one treats an AC outlet in their home or business.
Our tech savvy audience generally owns several electronic devices such as cell phones, GPS and laptop computers. Realistically what sort of devices would one expect to be able to power?
Any portable or semi-portable electronic device as long as its power draw does not exceed the power output rating of the power-producing system. Cell phones and other USB-charged devices require very little power, and are simple to charge or power up. GPS battery chargers require little power, and are simple to recharge. Laptop computers typically draw 40-60 watts, some more, and are relatively simple to power up, unless the user intends to operate it 24 hours/day, every day. LED lighting systems draw very little power, and provide excellent light for operations in the dark, reading at night, camping, etc. Medical and scientific devices, communication radios, search and rescue devices, battery chargers, refrigeration and freezer units, small and medium sized power tools, water purifiers and water makers, night vision systems, and many more can all be powered up by small portable solar power systems.
Can you give us any thoughts or insights as to where you see the solar power technology evolve in the near future?
As the efficiency of solar cells increases (and it does), and as the cost of liquid fuel increases, the demand for solar power and sophisticated batteries will increase. As demand increases, the cost of such gear will decrease, and it will become more readily available to everyone. Integrated systems that take advantage of solar, wind and a variety of liquid fuels will become more popular and affordable. In the 3.5 years that Powerenz, Inc. has been in business, we have observed incredible progress in the technology of portable solar power. Increased efficiency means the same amount of power production from a solar array that covers less surface area. Efficiency is a critical variable, is being studied in specialized labs, and continuously increases. The efficiency of light-weight foldable panels has increased from 5% to 20% in the last few years.
Perhaps, one day, every small electronic device will come equipped with its own small solar power plant. Every laptop will come with its own small portable solar power system that includes a small solar panel that weighs a few ounces, and that can be deployed out in the sunshine whenever the user chooses.
As you have read the multitude of uses for solar powered cells gives it great potential for emergencies and for future technological developments. If anyone out there reading this already has implemented solar technology into their everyday life please leave a comment on your experience, we would be interested to learn the creative ways our readers may have implemented solar panels.