Many countries in the world suffer from the lack of widespread electricity. I know of several missionaries who carried small solar-powered chargers that powered their iPod so they could play some music for an hour or two in the evening. A day-long charge only yielded that amount of power.
With the availability of cellular communications in some remote areas with 2G, 3G and 4G cell towers fed by satellite connections, the problem for the people in South Africa and other areas is the lack of electricity. In fact, some businesses have sprung up that are using generators and collect money for a one-time charge for a cell phone. Depending on the availability and demand solar chargers for cell phones and other small electronic devices are sold with pricing ranging from $24 (U.S.) to over $200, which is beyond what the majority of the people can afford.
The people at World Panel have developed a high-power solar charger that will be sold for a nominal cost by the cellular providers in the remote areas. Their World Panel 500 and 1000 phone chargers will be revealed at AfricaCom in the next few days (November 12th through the 14th of November. This marketing strategy it to give the providers branding on the rechargers and increased revenue. They are betting that the longer the cell phone can remain charged, the greater number of minutes they will be able to bill.
A proliferation of these affordable, portable solar charging stations can also be a great thing for the environment. It could even help charging businesses serve more customers and reduce the emissions from gasoline-powered generators. The World Panel 1000 can charge two devices at the same time. Furthermore, the World Panels can even operate when wet or under water!
World Panel claims their solar charging technology can charge a phone just as fast as a traditional wall charger. Surprisingly, a test showed the World Panel 500 actually charged the phone faster.
World Panel CEO John Anderson said in a press release “I arrived in the Sub-Saharan in 2011 with a solar prototype for boiling water and left with the clear message that people wanted a better way to keep their phones charged. After an intense R&D and testing period, I am returning to Africa to launch a line of patented chargers that meets the requirements of those I interviewed: it is as fast as a wall plug, it will last, and the price is right. Income generation is possible also for both entrepreneurs and the telecoms since 10 phones can be charged in a day.”
It looks like John Anderson did his homework quite well! Watch the video below to see the World Panel 500 and 1000 in action.