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CES: Who needs a hand crank when there's portable solar power?

January 6, 2011 |  8:26 am

Ecotricity-BannerThe sun isn’t quite shining on the CES showroom floor, but if it were, there’d be plenty of solar power to spare.

And much of it is portable. One of the small-scale generators from Ecotricity weighs around 100 pounds but can provide backup solar power for refrigerators, computers, household appliances and more.

The eco1800S set includes a wheeled solar panel and a sleek generator that looks like a camping kit with an 1,800-watt inverter and four 120-volt outlets.

But no one said it was cheap. The contraption, which Ecotricity said could be used for situations as varied as tailgate parties or natural disaster cleanup, will retail for about $1,600 come spring.

Solar The Guide 10 Adventure Kit from Goal Zero is easier on the wallet. At $140 from REI and other retailers, the system includes a seven-watt solar panel with a rechargeable AA battery pack.

The lightweight setup charges up in the sun within four hours and can then power an iPod for 40 hours, a cellphone for 30 and a smartphone for up to 10.

Until now, steady solar power has mostly been seen as a bulky, stationary endeavor, with the exception of small, individually charged gadgets.

The solar industry also got a boost from the Consumer Electronics Assn., which puts on the show in Las Vegas. The group donated $75,000 this week to the Green Chips nonprofit, which runs a program that funds energy-efficiency audits, retrofits and some solar-panel installations.

One recent recipient: A Las Vegas women’s shelter.

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White House to install solar panels

-- Tiffany Hsu

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