Quick — how do you get funding for your next great solar-powered invention?
Crowdfunding, of course. Thanks to awesome platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, it’s now easier than ever to raise money — not to mention public interest — for any kind of project or endeavor you feel like doing. Check out these 5 interesting crowdfunded solar projects:
Solar Pocket Factory
Any DIY’er or hands-on science geek will truly appreciate the Solar Pocket Factory. It’s a machine that manufactures micro solar panels and fits on your tabletop. The kit, which you can purchase here, is part-educational and part-highly useful. The cells you create can be used to charge devices and power virtually anything that takes small batteries.
Founders and self-proclaimed “energy hackers” Shawn Frayne and Alex Hornstein created the SPF because they noticed that most panels break after a few years and are expensive to replace. Their system cuts manufacturing costs down by 25%.
The Forty2 is an “all-in-one unit that combines all the elements of a grid into one small package.” In other words, it’s the portable generator of the 21st century and got its start with $83,286 of funding on Kickstarter.
The power unit is a simple and elegant box that looks and carries like a slick metal briefcase. All you need to do is open it up and let the solar panels do their thing. The Forty2 produces up to 180 watts of electricity, which can be stored within the built-in lithium-ion battery.
ZenTreks solar backpack
Why — might you ask — would anyone need a solar backpack? Well, consider the backcountry rescuer or smokejumper who might spend days in the wilderness relying on power and communications to save lives. The ZenTreks solar backpack lets you charge your devices using the power of the sun, and even includes a tiny rechargeable battery charging station.
Not all of us are scouts in the woods, but it sure would be nice to be able to leave our house for long periods of time without having to tote around a tangled mess of phone and laptop charging cables — and that doesn’t even include finding an outlet to park at while you charge up. Which is why ZenTreks slogan “Get Outside Stay Outside” makes so much sense.
AQUA TEK S phone charger
Sure, the backpack is cool but you don’t always want to wear one around just to charge your cell phone. Enter AQUA TEK S, an all-in-one waterproof and self-charging iPhone case. I have to be honest — this thing looks pretty hard core, perhaps a little too rugged for me, but it would certainly come in handy if I went camping in Alaska for a week.
What’s really cool about this Kickstarter campaign is the ongoing feedback the Snow Lizard team received from their Kickstarter Backers. They were able to improve the design while the campaign was still going, which helped them more than double their original $75,000 funding goal.
I’ve saved the best crowdfunded solar invention for last because it’s so simple and it’s designed with a humanitarian purpose. LuminAID is a nothing more than a rugged plastic waterproof bag containing solar panels and an LED light. You charge the bag in the sun for 4-6 hours, inflate the bag and voila! — you have light for up to 6 hours (there are a high and a low setting).
Now imagine how useful LuminAID can be for people in developing countries who lack access to electricity, or for disaster relief areas where the power has been cut. Another benefit is portability — you can pack up to 50 LuminAID lights in the same space as eight solar-powered flashlights. Ready to order one?