Friday, April 18, 2014

Company Proposes Sprawling Solar Farm

Planned for 10 acres overlooking I-495 

METHUEN — A Tennessee-based renewable energy company wants to build a 1.2-megawatt solar farm on a hill next to Old Ferry Road using plans that align closely with a 2011 proposal which failed.

Ultimate Energy Source, based in Knoxville, Tenn., submitted a proposal on March 4 to build between 4,500 and 4,700 solar panels on nearly 10 acres on a hill overlooking Pleasant Valley Street and Interstate 495.

The Community Development Board will hold a public hearing on the proposal at its meeting April 9 at 6:30 p.m. in City Hall.

The land and some neighboring properties are zoned light industrial. However, some residential areas, including an apartment complex and subdivisions, lie immediately to the north and west.

Atlantic Group Development LLC, of Lunenburg, controlled by Scott J. Peacock, owns the property. A message left at his office seeking comment Friday was not returned.

Ultimate Energy Source will lease the land and sell the electricity generated there to National Grid, the company said on its website.

A voice message left at Ultimate Energy Source Friday seeking comment was not returned.

According to plans submitted to the city, Ultimate Energy Source, under the name Methuen Solar LLC, plans to build the panels in two large dense clusters on the east side of the hill, and one smaller group just off Old Ferry Road. The two large groups will have an access road around them and in between them, and the installation will be surrounded by a chain link fence with security cameras.

Regrading will be required. The plot sits to the east and below the crest of the hill.

Aerial Spectrum Energy of Burlington submitted a similar proposal in November 2011, but that project was not built. Stephen DeFeo, chairman of the Community Development Board, said concerns arose over the stability of the system used to anchor the panels into the ground, given the type of soil on the hill.

“We were very concerned that the hill would wash away,” DeFeo said.

Those plans, however, showed a similar number of panels spread out across the lot, including on a steep incline on the northwestern edge. The current plan shows the panels being clustered on a relatively flat cut on the hill, although the anchoring system appears to be the same.

Ultimate Energy Source is working on a half dozen solar projects in the United States, including the Methuen proposal, a 37-acre eight-megawatt project in Springfield, three projects in northeastern Pennsylvania and one in North Carolina.

One megawatt can power about 750 homes.

The proposed natural gas power plant in Salem, Mass., would generate 630 megawatts of electricity.

Source: http://www.eagletribune.com/latestnews/x1387867092/Company-proposes-sprawling-solar-farm

Thursday, April 17, 2014

SolarCity & Best Buy Team Up to Sell Solar in 60+ Stores

SolarCity and Best Buy announced this week that they have teamed to sell residential solar in New York, Oregon, Arizona, Hawaii, and California. There are now SolarCity kiosks in over 60 Best Buy stores.

“This is the largest consumer electronics retailer in the United States,” said SolarCity vice president Jonathan Bass. “When you come into Best Buy, at our kiosk we can look at your home on a satellite map and determine if it will be a good fit for solar.”

The deal is even being kicked off with $100 Best Buy gift card for anyone who signs up for SolarCity’s service before Earth Day, April 22.


It is part of SolarCity’s push to go mainstream. In the poll it recently conducted with Clean Edge, 62% of American homeowners said they want solar panels on their homes. SolarCity wants to help them do this. According to their brochure:
  • SolarCity and Best Buy have beta tested the program since September, and based on the success of the early pilots, are currently rolling out services in approximately 60 Best Buy locations in Arizona, California, Hawaii, New York and Oregon.
  • The decreasing cost of solar technology and the expansion of solar service models have made solar power far more affordable and accessible than was previously possible—SolarCity can make it possible for Best Buy customers to install solar panels for free, and pay less for solar electricity than they currently pay for utility bills.
  • A SolarCity representative at each Best Buy location will be able to provide Best Buy customers with a satellite-based assessment of their home’s solar potential—including how much they could expect to save on energy costs—in less than five minutes.
  • A great swath of Americans believe we should be using more solar, but fewer than 1 percent have it today. Best Buy is making solar power far more accessible—bringing it into the mainstream—as the first national consumer electronics retailer to offer a solar service option in-store.
  • Solar power can be used to operate any device that runs on electricity, and generates zero emissions. The use of solar power also significantly mitigates the air and water pollution associated with other forms of electricity generation.
Want to see how much you could save switching to solar? It all starts with a free consultation in your home.

If you don’t live in one of the specified areas, you can still phone one of SolarCity’s Energy Advisors (888.765.2489) or go to their website solarcity.com.

Source: http://cleantechnica.com/2014/03/15/solarcity-best-buy-team-sell-solar-60-stores/

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Strawberry Trees Offer Free Public Solar Charging for Gadgets

© Strawberry Energy
In a bid to bring more renewable energy choices to the public, while educating people on the benefits of solar power, one Serbian startup is building public solar charging stations that will energize mobile gadgets and serve as a social hub.

The vision of Strawberry Energy is to make renewable energy sources more accessible for all people, and to show that solar power and other clean energy solutions aren't just abstract concepts, but are instead practical and desirable. The way they're helping to get that message across is through their public solar charging stations, dubbed Strawberry Trees, which offer free charging for mobile devices, and in some cases, free WiFi.
"Recognizing that the best way to raise awareness about the issues of clean green energy is to present the benefits through practical example, Strawberry energy engages in research and promotion of renewable energy sources and sustainable development."
Because so many of us are dependent on our phones, our tablets, and our music players, all of which are likely to run out of juice just when we need them, offering a way for users to recharge them with the power of the sun might be a great entry point for showing how solar energy has a place in our everyday lives.

The Strawberry Tree public solar stations, which are designed to be permanently installed in busy public places, include 16 charging cords (so users don't have to have their charger with them), and can serve as a meeting place and WiFi hotspot.
© Strawberry Energy
Currently, 12 of the Strawberry Tree charging stations are installed in Europe, with ten of them in Serbia and two in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and have proven to be popular with the public. The company recently signed a US distribution agreement with 3fficient Energy of California, which could open the door for wider adoption of these public solar chargers. According to 3fficient, the California Community College system has already expressed interest in the Strawberry Tree system.



Strawberry Energy also makes two other versions of the solar chargers, the Strawberry Mini, which is a smaller portable model that could be used for festivals and events, and the Mini Rural, which is even smaller and is designed for offgrid and rural use in areas without electricity.

Source: http://www.treehugger.com/solar-technology/strawberry-trees-offer-free-public-solar-charging-gadgets.html

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Vermont Lawmakers, Towns Worry About Solar Projects that Could be Seen as an Eyesore

Sungen Sharon Solar Farm in Sharon. (Photo by Roger Crowley/for VTDigger)
MONTPELIER -- Vermont has become the nation's leader in solar jobs per capita -- an achievement praised by the Shumlin administration, environmental groups and solar developers. But solar's growth is not so bright for those near the state's so-called "Solar Capital" in Rutland, who say they are struggling to keep up with the burgeoning industry.

Don Chioffi, clerk of the Rutland Town Select Board, said while Rutland City has been called the solar capital of the state (thanks to a notable Green Mountain Power project), Rutland Town - a rural community of about 6,000 citizens is not ready adopt that moniker because of the impact large solar could have on the town's rural character.

"Like most of the rest of the state, we have been pretty much overwhelmed by the rapid expansion of the solar industry within our state and as the duly elected officials of our community, we have been attempting to get ahead of a steeply rising curve," Chioffi told the Senate Natural Resources Committee Thursday.

Chioffi said he does not oppose solar, but the town would prefer to site solar projects in locations that do not disturb the aesthetics of the local landscape. "We do not want this quality destroyed by unregulated and industrial solar," he told the committee.

The committee passed a bill Friday designed to lump solar projects into the same zoning process as other commercial development. Sen. Kevin Mullin, R-Rutland, introduced S.191 this year.

The bill is not designed to stop solar projects, said committee Chair Bob Hartwell, D-Bennington. But lawmakers say something must be done to balance the state's renewable energy goals with the state's bucolic landscape, which includes giving towns a voice in deciding where solar projects are located.

"While it may be helpful for energy, it's not the most beautiful thing to look at," said Vice Chair Diane Snelling, R-Chittenden.

Chioffi said Rutland Town has been under pressure to adopt a zoning plan that includes solar in order to maintain the town's current agrarian landscape as the the solar industry moves in.

Environmental groups say anything that makes it harder to develop renewable power will delay the state from moving toward its goal of tapping 90 percent of its power from renewables by 2050.

Dylan Zwicky, a clean energy associate for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, said Rutland Town's working energy plan will put "new barriers at the local level, making it more difficult for folks to generate their own power." VPIRG supports an expansion of solar energy projects under the state's net metering program.

"We feel that if we're serious about addressing global warming, Vermonters need to be able to take steps to generate their own power," Zwicky said.

Lawmakers want to be sure town plans have been weighed as part the Public Service Board's review process of solar projects. Snelling is concerned about town review and public input for solar projects. She recently participated in a hearing for the 2.2 megawatt "Charlotte Solar Farm."

"It was very sad as a legislator to be sitting in the Charlotte public hearing on this project and feel like the voices of the people were not being heard," Snelling said.

The developer, a company from North Chelmsford, Mass., has not received a letter of credit from the Public Service Board. The project received a certificate of public good last January.

Source: http://www.reformer.com/state/ci_25354460/vermont-lawmakers-towns-worry-about-solar-projects-that

Monday, April 14, 2014

Indiana County Considering Solar Farm Project

In this Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014 photo, an Indian security man walks by solar panels at a solar power project in Raisan village near Gandhinagar, India. For six years, India's monopoly coal producer has missed production targets that already fall short of the country’s demand. Industry has been left scrambling for pricier imports. Power cuts are chronic, and hundreds of millions still have no access. But what looks like a looming power crisis could actually be a rising energy transformation, with the country poised for a shift toward solar to end chronic energy woes and offer first-time access to hundreds of millions nationwide. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — A southern Indiana county is weighing a company’s proposal to build a five-megawatt solar energy farm on county-owned land.

Solar Zentrum has proposed using 15 to 20 acres in Monroe County for the project. That land is a part of an 85-acre plot owned by the county.

The company is seeking a site that could house between 4,000 and 5,000 solar photovoltaic panels that would turn sunlight into electricity.

The Herald-Times reports (http://bit.ly/1gnu7FV ) that Duke Energy has issued a request for proposals for solar farms that would gather the energy and then sell it to Duke.

The county property in question is near a power transfer station, making it an ideal site.

Monroe County’s commissioners and members of the county’s environmental quality commission have agreed to move the idea forward.

Source: http://wthitv.com/2014/03/16/indiana-county-considering-solar-farm-project/

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Company Tests Solar Power

Energy source could help astronauts travel solar system

A California-based private aerospace, defense and commercial products company, ATK, agreed to test its solar arrays at the NASA Plum Brook Station.

The work started earlier this month and extends into late April. Solar arrays can convert sunlight into electricity or energy needed for powering astronauts into deep space.

“The testing of the ATK array is a major milestone toward development of a new solar electric power system that will generate the high power needed for extending human presence throughout the solar system,” NASA officials stated in a release.

Severe weather forced ATK and NASA administrators, including those from Cleveland and Washington, to postpone a tour at Plum Brook this past Wednesday.

No make-up date has been announced.

NASA spokeswoman Katherine Martin answered questions about this new partnership at the Plum Brook Station:   

Q: What is the purpose of this testing?

KM: The testing will expose the array system to the unique conditions that Plum Brook can simulate.

Because this is a new, never-before-tested design for advanced solar array systems capable of collecting more energy than previous designs, it is imperative we test them before going forward with a space-ready version.

ATK is under contract to design, analyze and test a single solar array capable of generating more than 15 kilowatts of power. The Phase I teams also will demonstrate how this array can be scaled up to provide 250 kilowatts or more for future spacecraft with very high power requirements.

Q: What will this testing ultimately accomplish or strive to achieve?

KM: High power solar electric propulsion, where the power is generated with advanced solar array systems, is a key capability required for extending human presence throughout the solar system.

These advanced solar arrays will drastically reduce weight and stowed volume, meaning it takes up less room, when compared to current systems. They also will significantly improve efficiency and functionality of future systems that will produce hundreds of kilowatts of power.

These advanced solar arrays could be used in future NASA human exploration and science missions, communications, satellites and other future spacecraft applications.

Q: Where is testing occurring at the NASA Plum Brook Station and why?

KM: The Space Power Facility houses the world’s largest and most powerful space environment simulation facilities. The Space Simulation Vacuum Chamber is the world’s largest, measuring 100 feet in diameter by 122 feet high. The Reverberant Acoustic Test Facility is the world’s most powerful spacecraft acoustic test chamber.

Q: How many solar arrays are being tested?

KM: Two: ATK is testing their prototype array system at Plum Brook Station, and DSS (Deployable Space Systems) is expected to test their prototype array system later this year in California.

Q: How much does the testing at Plum Brook cost?

KM: The cost of testing the array is about $500,000. Note that this includes the use of the facility for about eight weeks and includes ‘vibro-acoustic’ testing, hot vacuum testing, cold vacuum testing, deployed dynamics testing and all instrumentation and cabling and labor to support the tests.

Solar power testing at a world-class facility in Erie County could help astronauts get to Mars and explore the universe.

Source: http://www.sanduskyregister.com/article/nasa-plum-brook/5434136

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Solar Could Bring in Even More Money

SOMERSET — The companies that won the bid to put a solar farm on town-owned property off of Wilbur Avenue have changed their proposal to use less land but would generate more power, which will result in more money to the town than had been originally discussed.

The original proposal from Borrego Solar and NextEra Energy Resources would have generated four megawatts of power by installing solar panels on 27.7 acres of the property while the new proposal will generate six megawatts of power on 23.8 acres of the property.

Town Administrator Dennis Luttrell said the town could be compensated from the companies by a combination of buying electricity at a reduced rate, a lease they will have to pay for the property and taxes on personal property, which would be the equipment used on the land.

Over 20 years, Mr. Luttrell said the town could realize $16,390,091 from the solar farm, while over 25 years, the town could realize $19,814,844. Under the previous proposal, the town would have realized $9.1 million over 20 years.

"This is all subject to negotiations," Mr. Luttrell said. "It means a lot to the town when we don't have as much revenue these days. Every dollar we make from this is a dollar we don't have to charge the taxpayers or take from the budget."

He said the companies are requesting a payment-in-lieu of tax agreement that town meeting voters would have to approve.

The original proposal would have used five lots on the town-owned land, but some wetlands presented a problem with the layout of the solar farm, so the companies have proposed using a different part of the town-owned property. The parcel of land that the town owns off of Wilbur Avenue has 98 acres. It was formerly owned by New England Power and after the town bought it, it was leased out for farming. The design for the solar panels has been shifted west on the property.

Mr. Luttrell said the new layout of the solar farm would have to be approved by town meeting voters.

"Hopefully, the town meeting will see the wisdom of doing this," Mr. Luttrell said.

The new proposal would have more solar collectors on the property. The original design had the solar panels being closer to Wilbur Avenue and to the Somerset Ridge Center nursing home and Alzheimer's unit.

"This takes it farther away from populated areas," Mr. Luttrell said of the proposed new design for the solar farm.

Mr. Luttrell said there will be a buffer zone to the solar farm along Brayton Avenue and said there may be two houses that could see the solar panels. But he said a town bylaw requires plantings to screen the solar panels from the houses.

Mr. Luttrell said the new solar farm plan requires cutting more trees down on the town property. The selectmen last Wednesday tabled their decision on the solar farm proposal.

Source: http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20140316/PUB05/403120339

Friday, April 11, 2014

Solar Power More Economical than Natural Gas, Coal, Nuclear in Texas

Image CC licensed by Steve Rainwater
Austin Energy is going to pay under 5 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity from 2 new solar power plants, Cleantechnica has reported. This is a couple of cents less than it estimates it could have paid for electricity from a natural gas plant (7 cents), 5 cents less than from a coal-fired power plant (10 cents), and 8 cents less than from a nuclear power plant (13 cents).

The 5 cents per KWh is even more significant because solar produces the most electricity at peak demand times, around the middle of the day in Texas. When electricity demand is up, electricity prices rise, and when demand goes down, electricity prices fall. That 5 cents per KWh for solar power in the middle of the day is a good deal indeed.

Cleantechnica points out that although there are no subsidies for solar that help with this project in Texas, there is a federal investment tax credit (ITC) at work. Without the credit, the cost of the solar electricity would actually be 8 cents per KWh, just a little more than gas, and still a lot less than coal and nuclear. If the environmental cost of gas and coal were factored in, solar would already be far less expensive than fossil fuel-based electricity.

Source: http://www.the9billion.com/2014/03/16/solar-power-more-economical-than-gas-coal-nuclear-in-texas/

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Legislator Tapped for Solar Panel Study Committee

Hamilton
CUMMING — District 24 state Rep. Mark Hamilton has been tapped to serve on the Solar Panel Study Committee, looking into the future of solar technology.

“I am honored to be appointed to this subcommittee and want to thank Representative Mike Dudgeon for bringing forth this legislation,” Hamilton said.

Both he and Dudgeon, who represents District 25, are Republicans from Forsyth County.

Hamilton went on to note that solar power is “a cost-effective source of energy, and citizens should have the freedom to use it to power their homes.”

The subcommittee was created after Dudgeon’s House Bill 874 failed to clear the chamber this session. The measure would help people access solar energy, but it could also open some loopholes, which is why further study was required.

The bill would have allowed retail electric customers to install solar technology to generate electricity for their own properties.

The technology could be financed through a loan, lease, power purchase agreement or other financing arrangement under the bill, which also would prohibit an electric service provider from interfering with the installation or financing.

“There were still concerns with it,” Hamilton said. “The hope and intention is that this study committee would come up with either an appropriate compromise or new language so that a new bill would be able to be introduced next year that would help satisfy needs.”

The seven-person subcommittee will be chaired by Rep. Harry Geisinger, a Roswell Republican. The other representatives include: Robert Dickey, R-Musella; Karla Drenner, D-Avondale Estates; Ben Harbin, R-Evans; Susan Holmes, R-Monticello; and Earnest Smith, D-Augusta.

“Technology has improved so much over the last few years in solar energy,” Hamilton said. “And with that, cost has come down dramatically, so that it’s getting close to being affordable to many consumers.

“The challenge then, is we want to balance how we provide this solar opportunity to businesses and consumers, while at the same time understanding that there’s a tremendous amount of capital already invested in infrastructure across the state that we need to make sure we don’t jeopardize.”

The subcommittee will work in the interim leading up to the 2015 Georgia General Assembly.

Source: http://www.forsythnews.com/section/2/article/22950/

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Solar Panels Give Derby Victorian Church Help and Inspiration from Above

The Rev Derek Honour, front, with his congregation inside the church, which now generates
its own electricity from 100 solar panels fixed to its roof.
Inset, the panels on the church.
A VICTORIAN Derby church has found a hi-tech solution to help people see the light.

St Barnabas's Church, in Radbourne Street, is now fitted out with 100 solar panels to generate electricity, resulting in about £35,000 savings, as well as profit, for the church over 20 years.

The Rev Derek Honour said the £41,000 project was important to help to combat climate change.

He said: "We want to try to reduce our carbon footprint. If we don't do something as a nation, we're going to get what's called catastrophic climate change, which would be much, much worse."

He also said that it was Christians' responsibility to look after the planet, according to the Bible.

He said: "As Christians, we believe that God has entrusted the Earth to us as stewards. He has entrusted us to care for the Earth, a bit like a landlord.

"In not looking after the Earth, we are accountable to God."

Mr Honour said he had been inspired to take the move after a church in Melbourne had solar panels fitted in 2011 – becoming one of the first churches in the UK to do so.

The money used to fund the panels project came from a permanent endowment fund, which had been created through the sale of land and garages belonging to the church.

These funds were originally intended for use constructing a new building for the church, but Mr Honour said he managed to get some of it released for the solar panel project.

He said: "We thought the money would be appropriate to use because it would go towards improving the church building as well as providing free electricity while the sun is shining.

"The panels will be able to generate up to 25Kw of electricity per hour."

The church will also receive money as part of a Government scheme to encourage people to use greener energy sources.

Mr Honour said: "The Government works out how much electricity it thinks we'll generate over a year and how much of that we will use.

"It pays at least 6.85p and up to 12p for each kilowatt we generate. Any excess electricity we generate is fed back into the National Grid."

Source: http://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/Solar-panels-Derby-Victorian-church-help/story-20818555-detail/story.html

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Solar Power Threatening Future for U.S. Electric Utilities

A persistent warning light is flashing for U.S. electric utilities. The utilities -- big and small, for- and not-for-profit -- are facing serious disruptive technology. The old business models are in danger.

The unlikely disruptive technology that is causing the trouble is rooftop solar power.

Back in the energy turbulent 1970s, solar was a gleam in the eye of environmentalists who dared to dream of renewable energy. It looked like a pipe dream.

Very simple solar had been deployed to heat water in desert homes since indoor plumbing became the norm. Making electricity from the sun was many orders of magnitude more complex and it was, anyway, too expensive.

The technology of photovoltaic cells, which make electricity directly from the sun, needed work; it needed research, and it needed mass manufacturing. Hundreds of millions of dollars later in research and subsidies, the cost of solar cells has fallen and continues to go down.

Today, solar certainly is not a pipe dream: It is looking like a mature industry. It is also a big employer in the installation industry. It is a player, a force in the market.

But solar has created a crisis for the utilities.

In order to incubate solar, and to satisfy solar advocates, Congress said that these “qualifying facilities” should be able not only to generate electricity for homes when the sun is shining, but also to sell back the excess to the local utility. This is called “net metering” and it is at the center of the crisis today -- particularly across the Southwest, where solar installations have multiplied and are being added at a feverish rate.

Doyle Beneby, CEO of San Antonio, Texas-based CPS Energy, the largest municipal electric and gas utility in the nation, said, “The homes that are installing solar quickly are the more affluent ones.” The problem here, he explained, is that the utility has to maintain the entire infrastructure of wires and poles and buy back electricity generated by solar in these homes at the highest prevailing rate -- often more than power could be bought on the market or generated by the utility.

Steve Mitnik, a utility industry consultant, said that 47 percent of the nation's electric market is residential and the larger, affluent homes -- which use a lot of electricity, and generally pay more as consumption rises -- are a critically important part of it. Yet these are the ones that are turning to solar generation, and expect to make a profit selling excess production to the grid.

But who pays for the grid? According to CPS Energy's Beneby, and others in the industry, the burden of keeping the system up and running then falls on those who can least afford it.

The self-generating homes still need the grid not only to sell back to but,more importantly, to buy from when the sun isn't shining and at night.

For some in the utility industry, net-metering is just the beginning of a series of emerging problems, including:

-  Big investments are needed in physical security after the sniper attack last October at PG&E Corp.'s Metcalf transmission substation, which took out 17 huge transformers that provide power to California's Silicon Valley.

-  New investment is needed in cybersecurity.

-  Improved response to bad weather is a critical issue, especially in some Mid-Atlantic states.

Beneby believes the solar incursion into the traditional marketplace might be the beginning of more self-generation -- such as home-based, micro-gas turbines -- and utilities will and must adjust. He is something of a futurist and points out that in telephones, once a purely utility service, disruption has been hugely creative.

Environmentalists are as disturbed as the utilities. Some are calling the imposition of a surcharge on rooftop generators, as in Arizona recently, an attempt by the greedy utilities to stamp out competition. But many are seeking alternative solutions without a war over generating, and without punishing those unable to afford their own generation.

Brian Keane, president of SmartPower, a green-marketing group with solar-purchase programs in Arizona and many other states, has looked for cool heads to prevail on both sides of the issue. “I don't have an answer,” he said, calling for dialogue. Also the Edison Electric Institute, a trade group, has been talking with the National Resources Defense Council.

It isn't your father's electric utility anymore, or your hippie's solar power.

Source: http://oilprice.com/Alternative-Energy/Solar-Energy/Solar-Power-Threatening-Future-for-U.S.-Electric-Utilities.html

Monday, April 7, 2014

Whatever Happened to Solar Charging Phones?

Image from Phone Arena
A lot of interesting news popped up in my feed today, one of them being that wireless electricity is coming to fruition. Although the technology is still in the baby stages, and initially will likely be optimized for medical usage (and rightfully so), I started to wonder how long it would be before wireless electricity would be used to benefit everyday mobile technology, such as for charging. However, this led me to start thinking that we already have unconventional methods of charging our phones wirelessly (via a charging pad, which isn't the same as wireless technology which uses magnetic fields to produce electricity) which still isn't exactly widely implemented today. We also, at one point in time, used to have phones that entertained the practice of solar charging.

I only ever saw one phone that tried this, and it was the Samsung Replenish, a little known Android device with a BlackBerry-like physical QWERTY keyboard. It was one of the cheaper handsets at Sprint, but in my opinion was also one of the most unique. It was described as an eco-friendly phone due to the box it came in, which was made out of recycled material, and the phone itself was made out of plastics that were safe for the environment. Although the phone didn't have solar charging included right out of the box, it was the only Sprint phone that offered an alternative back cover with solar charging capabilities. It was said that this solar charger would give users an extra 20 minutes of talk time, as long as it was held at a 90-degree angle for an hour in direct sunlight. It required extremely tedious conditions to work, if it did work; regardless, it looked like the beginning stages of what could be the next big alternative charging technique for phones.

Yet, after the Replenish was pulled from shelves, I never saw another smartphone quite like it. Not only was that about the same time that most Androids ditched whole physical keyboard aspect, but there was also little to no emphasis on trying to add solar charging panels on to phones. Perhaps it was because the technology wasn't exactly advanced enough to make any real progress, but with it being nearly 3 years since the Replenish was on shelves, I do wonder if the concept was ditched completely, and why.

A phone that can make use of solar charging generally seems like a good idea for a couple of different reasons. For one, it could be used for countries or situations that have limited use of electricity, even if it is charged just enough to make one or two phone calls. On a less serious note, it could also encourage people to go outside... even if it is just for one hour to check and see if the solar charging actually works or not. But mostly it just seems like it would be handy in emergency situations or for places without a lot of electricity.

Would I buy a phone that utilized solar charging? I would imagine so; the more ways to charge, the better, because you never know when you're charging port is going to fry up or give out. Then what do you do? If you're lucky and you have wireless charging, you could use that. Or, if you have solar charging, you could potentially use that. It might just be there as a safety net or last resort, but I'd rather have a last resort to use than no resort.

I don't know what happened to solar charging, or if it will ever make a comeback. If you ask me, though, I think it would be cool to have this feature return - at least to some phones. It uses a natural resource to bring power to these important devices, so it seems like it would make sense to try and make smartphones work together with solar charging.

Readers, what are your thoughts about solar charging in smartphones? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Source: http://www.phonedog.com/2014/03/16/whatever-happened-to-solar-charging-phones/