Solar power goes portable

Energy from the sun, now in a convenient backpack size.

By Todd Woody, Business 2.0 Magazine assistant managing editor

(Business 2.0 Magazine) -- Consumers could be mixing margaritas at the beach this summer by plugging their blenders into boom-box-size solar-powered battery packs.

Hitting the shelves this spring is the XPower Powerpack Solar, a 10-amp battery with a 5-watt solar panel. Unlike smaller solar chargers meant to top off mobile phones and other gadgets, the $169 XPower packs enough juice to run larger consumer electronics: It can run a laptop for three hours and a TV for 45 minutes.

The XPower is made by Xantrex, a Canadian company that sells inverters for solar power systems and wind turbines. Xantrex thinks personal renewable energy is a $100 million business. (Analysts say the market is too new to put a dollar figure on.)

"People who have a recreational lifestyle want cleaner, greener products," says product manager Grant Dunbar. It takes 40 hours of sunshine to fully charge the XPower, so Dunbar expects that most people will charge it up from a wall outlet at home and then use the solar panel to top it off while outdoors.

Meanwhile, Xantrex has rolled out the PowerHub 1800 an $899 backup battery that taps rooftop solar arrays. Which means guilt-free refrigeration for those margaritas too.


20-inch color TV: 45 minutes

60-watt lightbulb: 1.5 hours

Laptop computer: 3 hours Top of page

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