There’s something elemental about the panic that sets in when the power goes out at home. In the past, I have leaned on a gas generator to power appliances and recharge phones, but after the last storm, I started looking at sustainable ways to charge my phone daily. While it provides a safeguard against unexpected power loss it can also help make your household greener. In addition, these portable chargers are perfect for outdoor enthusiasts, long drives or preparing for the worst.
Traditionally, most of the new developments in renewable phone charging technology have leaned on kinetic technology with the push to solar power over the past decade, with other options utilizing power sources like wind energy now available online.
Aurea CEO and founder Cat Adalay said she’s grown up knowing that climate change would be the defining issue of her lifetime and realized that technology and innovation in renewable energy and microgrid systems would play a crucial role in helping address climate change. Thus, Aurea recently created Shine, a 40-watt, three-pound, wind turbine that sets up in two minutes and fits in your backpack.
“Just like with computers and other technologies, renewable energy will become more personalized and widely adopted by consumers in the future,” Adalay told Paste. “Since accessing power from the wind or sun does not require an industrial plant and global electricity usage is increasing every year, more people will start to adopt their own renewable technologies, at home or on the move, especially with batteries getting more advanced.”
Let’s take a look at some of the current options if you’re in the market to make your smartphone greener.
Shine, as noted above, is a portable wind turbine that can charge your electronics using winds from 8 to 28 mph. Shine can charge and rapidly store energy for later use of a 12,000 mAh Li-Ion battery and is capable of generating 40 watts. Aurea used two crowdfunding platforms to raise money for prototyping and building Shine and currently has more than $440,000 pledged on Indiegogo. The turbine is currently in production, according to the Shine campaign, and prices start at $340 for ‘Early Bird’ adopters.
The BigBlue 28 has landed on many “Best Of” lists rating solar chargers for a number of years now and it’s for a good reason. The multipurpose charger is ultra-portable, featuring three foldable solar panels, durable, reliable and has dipped in price just a little bit since its initial release a few years ago.
Some highlights include a weatherproof port protector (perfect for camping trips), short circuit protection and the charger also uses new technology to best match your device charging speed without the risk of overcharging or overheating. You can find the BigBlue 28 for around $70 or a bit cheaper if you look on Amazon.
When the power goes out the first two things I grab are a flashlight and my phone. The Journey 1000 Flashlight/Charger by HybridLight is perfect because it fills both of those needs and can be charged via cable or onboard solar panels.
This flashlight provides up to 175 hours of light on one full charge and has two settings. On ‘Low’, the Journey provides 175 hours of light at 125 lumens. On ‘High’ you can get six hours of light at 1000 lumens. The Journey comes with a USB port for charging your mobile devices and a Micro USB port for rapid charging the flashlight. There are several editions, but the 1000 is the top-of-the-line option and runs around $80.
The Qisa Solar Power Bank is perfect for camping and hiking trips because, in addition to being able to simultaneously charge four devices via cables with solar power, it also supports Qi wireless charging tech compatible with iPhone and Android phones. It also comes with a camping light and, according to the manufacturer, can charge fully using the sun in approximately eight hours. The Qisa is equipped with a 38800mAh battery so it can hold a charge for a few days but according to a few Amazon reviews, it is ‘bulkier’ than some customers expected. That said, this solar charger will only run you $30.
You may have heard of Eton’s rechargeable radios during one of NPR’s many fundraising weeks and there’s a good reason they’re dangled like delicious carrots to elicit donations. The Eton Sidekick Radio is the company’s newest version and features a small solar panel grid on top and doubles as a Bluetooth speaker. It’s built tough and also comes with the famous turn crank charger. This is truly an all-in-one piece of equipment because it also comes with a built-in flashlight, is NOAA certified and can charge your phone. The Weather Alert Radio with Bluetooth is $100.
Kenneth Torino, a former IBM executive and electrical engineer, created K-TOR because he saw a need for a personal generator that was small, light, inexpensive, versatile and easy to use. The company, founded in Vermont and now based in North Carolina, makes a variety of human-powered chargers including the Pocket Socket ($75), a USB-enabled hand crank and its bigger brother, the Power Box ($225), a pedal-powered charger that delivers more juice.
The Pocket Socket USB 1Amp is the size of a water bottle and features a smart chip that converts directly from the generator to the USB five-volt specified output and offers thermal protection to guard against accidental overloads.
What if when you took your morning walk or started your shift at work, you could charge an emergency power bank at the same time? Hahna Alexander, CEO and founder of SolePower, built a boot that can do just that. Alexander built the company’s prototype while they were mechanical engineering student at Carnegie Mellon University.
The idea was to create a shoe that harvested kinetic energy to light an LED, but that idea soon morphed into harvesting that energy to charge everything from your phone to your computer. While Alexander started the company with a focus on retail, they realized the more viable path was to tap into the B2B market and now offer boots for first responders, the military and contractors. In addition to building and storing a charge, the smart boots are able to track users, monitor environmental conditions and report on a user’s health.
Easy to install and built with a 3,4000 mAh battery, the Window Solar Charger by Group Hug Tech was featured on Shark Tank where it was funded by Mark Cuban. Prior to that, the solar charger, created by entrepreneur Krystal Persaud, had raised $80,000 via Kickstarter. According to Group Hug Tech’s specifications, the charger uses a 10W solar panel and takes about 10 hours of direct sunlight to fully charge. The transparent paneling is encased in a bamboo frame and costs $150.
Dana Forsythe is a freelance writer covering tech, comic books and culture. He lives in Massachusetts, enjoys photographing street art, collecting comics and can be followed via Twitter (@danafour).