The Current State of Solar Chargers on the Market

  • Jul 25th 2018

Many people still think that solar power is an inferior technology. Common misconceptions are that it is inefficient, expensive and complicated. You might even have bought a solar panel charger a few years ago when they were hyped, only to be disappointed how bad it was. Solar energy harvesting has come a long way in the last decade and is now a lot better, more efficient and also cheaper. Below is an interesting quote from Wikipedia discussing the current state of the solar chargers available on the market.

Portable solar chargers are used to charge cell phones and other small electronic devices on the go. Chargers on the market today use various types of solar panels, ranging from thin film panels with efficiencies from 7-15% (amorphous silicon around 7%, CIGS closer to 15%), to the slightly more efficient monocrystalline panels which offer efficiencies up to 18%.#

The other type of portable solar chargers is those with wheels which enable them to be transported from one place to another and be used by a lot of people. They are semi-public, considering the fact that are used publicly but not permanently installed. A good example of this kind of portable solar charger is the Strawberry Mini device.

The solar charger industry has been plagued by companies mass-producing low efficiency solar chargers that don't meet the consumer's expectations. This in turn has made it hard for new solar charger companies to gain the trust of consumers. Solar companies are starting to offer high-efficiency solar chargers. When it comes to permanently installed public solar chargers, Strawberry energy Company from Serbia has invented and developed the first public solar charger for mobile devices, Strawberry Tree. Due to a built in rechargeable battery which stores energy, it can function without sunshine or at night. Other companies such as Voltaic Systems, Poweradd and others have started to push better products onto the market as well.

Portable solar power is being utilized in developing countries to power lighting as opposed to utilizing kerosene lamps which are responsible for respiratory infections, lung and throat cancers, serious eye infections, cataracts as well as low birth weights. Solar power provides an opportunity for rural areas to "leapfrog" traditional grid infrastructure and move directly to distributed energy solutions.
Some solar chargers also have an on-board battery which is charged by the solar panel when not charging anything else. This allows the user to be able to use the solar energy stored in the battery to charge their electronic devices at night or when indoors.

Solar chargers can also be rollable or flexible and are manufactured using thin film PV technology. Rollable solar chargers may include Li-ion batteries.

Currently, foldable solar panels are coming down in price to the point that almost anyone can deploy one while at the beach, biking, hiking, or at any outdoor location and charge their cellphone, tablet, computer etc. As advances in the technology continue to be made, new products will be able to be expand into third world countries faster than ever before. Recently, billionaire Elon Musk unveiled a new battery system that may allow off-grid systems that rely solely on solar power to recharge them to be deployed anywhere on the planet, thus possibly ending the need for strictly grid-based energy systems.
Wikipedia is even a bit behind in the development of the latest solar cells. Today the best solar cells have up to 25% efficiency. We wrote a couple of articles about the best performing portable solar chargers for different usage scenarios: The 5 best solar panel chargers for camping and Best solar charger for backpacking 2018 reviews All chargers in those articles have above 20% conversion efficiency.