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Horizon announces versatile Sunbox solar power charging system

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November 10, 2011

The Sunbox USB 3.0 solar charging system provides three types of lighting, recharges mobil...

The Sunbox USB 3.0 solar charging system provides three types of lighting, recharges mobile devices, and includes rechargeable AA batteries

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People who are trekking in the wilderness, stranded at disaster sites or living in developing nations all have one thing in common - lack of access to an electrical infrastructure. Solar charging devices such as the Solio, iCharge and Joos Orange have been designed to meet the needs of some or all of these groups. One of the latest such systems, Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies' Sunbox USB 3.0, is particularly versatile.

The Sunbox gathers solar energy through a 1.8-watt waterproof photovoltaic panel. Whenever the sun is shining, that panel automatically starts charging the power system module, via a 3-meter (9.8-foot) cable. That module incorporates a 6-volt 3,000 milliampere-hour battery, two USB ports, and an LCD screen that displays the battery's level of charge. A full charge requires 6 to 10 hours of sunlight.

A 25-LED, 2-watt lamp can be plugged into the module's top USB port, for ambient nighttime lighting. For more focused lighting, an LED spotlight with a 3-meter cord can be plugged into either port. If you need a more mobile light source, there's also a 1-watt LED flashlight head that plugs into the top port.

The Sunbox USB 3.0 flashlight head

The power system module can additionally be used to charge mobile devices such as cell phones, most models of which should work with one of the seven adapter tips that are included. If you're trying to power a device that doesn't have a built-in battery pack (such as a radio), there's also a charging cradle that includes two rechargeable AA batteries. Should you wish to charge up the module using a source other than the sun, the system comes with a 14-volt DC charger plug.

The Sunbox USB 3.0 package is available for US$199.99, from the Horizon website.

Readers involved in foreign aid might also be interested in Horizon's entrepreneur package. It allows small businesspeople in developing nations to charge ten Sunbox battery packs at once, which can then be rented out to members of the local community.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
4 Comments

For backpacking maybe, but for third world countries, and disaster relief what is needed is a small ICE trigeneration plant fed by a biomass converter. The waste from the biomass converter is charcoal which produces much less toxic smoke when it burns than the original wood, dung, and other biomass massively improving the air quality for the cooks.

Slowburn
10th November, 2011 @ 07:06 pm PST

If you use solar energy converted to electricity why not use solar to cook directly? No biomass, no mess.

voluntaryist
11th November, 2011 @ 01:05 pm PST

@ slowburn

And where might one find an ICE trigeneration plant fed by a biomass converter for purchase? And what is the likely price of such a plant? What will be the reliability? How will they be serviced and maintained? Where will parts come from and at what price?

What size will the said plant be and how will it be deployed?

I think you'll find it is cost prohibitive and unserviceable in third world countries. It will be difficult to quickly and easily get established in disaster relief, not to mention fueled.

A simple, self-contained, no maintenance system like this is far superior for local use in either of those circumstances provided they have reasonable sunshine in a 24 hour period. The biggest problem for 3rd world countries will likely still be cost. At $200 per unit they would need to be purchased by governments to be deployed in emergencies.

Australian
11th November, 2011 @ 03:22 pm PST

Solar is expensive, fragile and only produces a miserable trickle of electricity only when you don't need lighting.

A biomass converter is a charcoal burner that allows you capture and cool the smoke so you can use it to fuel a ICE engine, spark ignition is easier to set up. For a generator or other stationary engine it can be made out of mud brick.

Small water cooled engines are available from both the automotive industry, and the makers of outboard engines for boats. (granted there is a large overlap here)

Use the waste heat from the engine and fuel cooling stack to provide the heat for an absorption refrigeration plant and to provide hot water.

The engine, generator, and refrigeration plant should cost less than a thousand dollars and produce enough electricity to light every hut in the village with power to spare for other uses.

In all fairness, I tend to think "industrial". Using livestock to power a small generator would be cheaper, and if you don't use a milk cow or such (too much physical activity reduces milk production in cattle at least) there is almost no down side. Especially if the critter in question is a sheep raised for wool, or cattle owned as cash.

Slowburn
11th November, 2011 @ 08:26 pm PST
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