To get the most out of solar panels they need to be facing the right way. Systems that track the sun are often used in large solar power stations and some larger home installations, but most flat panels for portable applications just lie there. Colorado-based Aspect Solar has come up with the SunSocket Solar Generator, a lightweight, portable, self-contained solar power system consisting of a battery and solar panels that brings the advantages of automatically tracking the Sun to small applications.
On the outside, SunSocket looks a bit like something out Q’s laboratory. It’s a metal case weighing 25 lb (11.3 kg) hiding high efficiency mono-crystalline 60 Watt photovoltaic panels that charge a 20 Ah lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) battery that can sit idle for years. According to Aspect, it only discharges zero to two percent per month when left on its own. The entire system is self contained, needing no adapters, batteries, or cords.
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So far, it seems like any other portable solar power system, but opening the lid reveals something more. Inside, there’s an expanding solar panel that slides its wings open to 44.8 in (113.7 cm). You flip up the panel, slide out the wings then, when you press the power switch, the panels automatically track the Sun. This increases performance, allowing the 250 Wh battery to fully charge in only five hours.
In addition to the panels and battery, the SunSocket also has a 100-watt inverter with universal plug, a 12-volt plug, USB plugs, charge meter, and a port for charging the battery from the mains.
In good sunlight, the SunSocket can power small devices like phones and tablets for an unlimited time and for 25 hours on battery with no sun, though as you approach the maximum output the battery is fighting a losing battle, and at a load of 100 watts in good sun it can only run for 4.2 hours with panels and battery together. One drawback to note is that the system is not weatherproof and the manufacturer warns that it should be used in dry conditions only.
The SunSocket sells for US$1,499.
The video below introduces the SunSocket.