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Published on April 23rd, 2011 | by Greg

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Goal Zero: Serious Solar Power

Most so­lar pow­ered de­vices are wimpy. They are recharge­able lights, or Blue­tooth head­sets, or more re­cent­ly, com­put­er key­boards. This might be be­cause larg­er de­vices would re­quire huge so­lar pan­els and quite a bit of time un­der the sun, mak­ing our portable de­vices much less portable. Which is a down­side if you are a camper, even if you camp by RV, as in­ex­pen­sive and rugged so­lar equip­ment ca­pa­ble of pow­er­ing your lap­top or oth­er mid-sized elec­tron­ics are hard to come by. They of­ten re­quired cus­tom so­lu­tions, which were pricey. Al­so, those who might be prepar­ing for the in­evitable vam­pire scourge, zom­bie out­break, or run-of-the-mill apoc­a­lyp­tic sce­nario should def­i­nite­ly have a ca­pa­ble so­lar pow­ered sys­tem.

That’s where the Goal Ze­ro Es­cape 150 Ad­ven­ture Kit comes in. It makes a very good ad­di­tion for any planned out­ing where elec­tric­i­ty is not read­i­ly avail­able. Well built, com­pact, rugged, wa­ter re­sis­tant and easy to use and han­dle the Kit con­sists of two ma­jor pieces: the hefty bat­tery and the Boul­der 15 watt so­lar pan­el. The bat­tery pack can be eas­i­ly and com­plete­ly charged from an or­di­nary out­let be­fore leav­ing the house and it can be eas­i­ly recharged in the field by us­ing the 18×11 inch so­lar pan­el. It can al­so be charged us­ing the car adapter pro­vid­ed. Un­like many so­lar prod­ucts, an in­vert­er is built-in, and pro­vides surge pro­tec­tion as well to reg­u­lar out­let-pow­ered de­vices.

The Es­cape 150 comes with enough pow­er to run your cell­phones, ra­dio’s, lights, cam­era’s, portable DVD play­ers, lap­tops, and more. It won’t, say, pow­er a mi­crowave or re­frig­er­a­tor. But most any small elec­tron­ics should be fine. Charg­ing the de­vice ful­ly from a reg­u­lar out­let took about 5 hours, which was re­as­sur­ing. But charg­ing the pack com­plete­ly by so­lar pow­er took 14 hours un­der clear skies and a bright shin­ing sun. Times can vary of course, but they sug­gest 10-15 on their site. We should note that the so­lar pan­els can al­so be con­nect­ed to oth­er so­lar pan­els to in­crease the amount of en­er­gy col­lect­ed and there­by de­crease your charg­ing time. Small­er bat­tery packs are al­so avail­able that of­fer sup­port for less-pow­er­ful de­vices and can recharge them less of­ten. The name comes from the 150 watt hours that you can ex­pect from a full, and rea­son­ably new, bat­tery. And the

The Es­cape 150 comes with a 1 year war­ran­ty on the de­vice and so­lar pan­els with a 6 month war­ran­ty on the bat­tery, and are built to with­stand light show­ers and nor­mal out­door use. We dropped the bat­tery to no harm, but did no­tice the so­lar pan­els are def­i­nite­ly easy to get dirty or dusty. For use at, say, Burn­ing Man, reg­u­lar clean­ing would be nec­es­sary or the so­lar yield drops quick­ly. Weight is the on­ly re­al is­sue we had- at 15 pounds, twelve of which are for the bat­tery, this is a back break­er and def­i­nite­ly won’t work for a light hike. It’s hard to get the bat­tery small­er and keep the pow­er out­put high, but it’s still a bit hard to lug around de­spite the nice sol­id han­dle. The bat­tery tech­nol­o­gy ap­pears to be pret­ty old school- ab­sorbed glass mat or AGM, which is ac­tu­al­ly just a type of lead acid recharge­able.

Though avail­able sep­a­rate­ly, they work best to­geth­er, at a fair­ly rea­son­able price of $360. Goal Ze­ro has a pret­ty good his­to­ry, and we strong­ly sup­port new ad­ven­tures like this one, which we saw orig­i­nal­ly at the Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics Show. It’s great to see so­lar hit­ting the price point and pow­er that we hope for a fair­ly portable and durable sys­tem.

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About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Apple’s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.



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