If you're like most Americans, you would love to switch from powering your devices with energy from the grid (coal, natural gas, etc.) to juicing your life with pure clean solar power, but there's one thing standing in your way: the initial expense and space needed for solar panels. Currently, though solar power is Americans' most preferred energy source, less than 1% of U.S. energy comes from solar. But one enterprising company wants to change that percentage as fast as possible with an ingenious little device: the SunPort solar charger.
The first thing you need to know about the SunPort is that it won't save you money. In fact, after the first year, which the company will subsidize, it will cost money — though SunPort estimates it will cost just 1-2 dollars per month to charge all of your devices. But don't stop reading yet — once you learn more about SunPort, your imagination might go wild with the ways wide adoption of this little device could impact the world.
Here's SunPort's proposal: you buy a small colorful device that looks almost exactly like a smartphone charger, and download the SunPort app. Plug the Sunport into any wall outlet and plug your device in, and the SunPort will measure how much electricity you use and "convert" it to solar power. It works by taking the huge, expensive solar credits usually only bought by large companies, and breaking them up into tiny bite-sized increments that can be distributed to many, with a sensor to measure how much each user consumes. The app will even show you how much solar energy you've used, so you can feel good about your contribution.
What is that contribution, you ask? Well, as the SunPort Kickstarter page explains, by helping use up these huge solar energy credits much faster, you're creating more demand for solar. More demand, of course, means a bigger rush by companies and the government to create more supply, by installing more panels and buying up extra solar power from those with existing panels. And because the sun offers an unlimited supply of energy, SunPort hopes wide adoption of its chargers will mean a faster reduction in fossil fuel-sourced energy. "SunPort is about democratizing solar energy," says Paul Droege, the engineer who invented SunPort. "It’s about solar beyond the suburbs."
SunPort came about after Droege had an epiphany. "I was at a solar conference and a speaker asked how many people had solar," he says. "In a room full of thousands, a couple dozen hands went up. Since most of these solar industry insiders weren’t getting solar, it was obvious there needs to be a different way to get solar, if it's ever going to be truly mainstream," he explains.
SunPort recently received funding through Kickstarter, where they made it clear that buying the SunPort isn't about saving money in the short term — it's about saving the environment. "Sure, owning panels can save you money after you pay thousands for the panels," says Droege. "But most people don’t do anything about solar because it takes a big commitment to get it. People are getting SunPorts because they provide a way to participate in solar that is easy and affordable, without the hassles or cost of owning panels," he adds.
With the SunPort Kickstarter now funded, the first chargers are expected to ship next spring, so look out for the little hot pink, yellow and blue chargers in airports, coffee shops and friends' houses. With SunPort's idea for creating consumer demand for solar energy at a rapid rate, they just might start a revolution.