19 December 2014


Top 10 Holiday Gifts to Convert your Family and Friends to Solar

Author: Alexandra Mebane, Solarplaza


2014 has been packed with innovation of all kinds, bringing ideas and gadgets that were once thought to be “futuristic” and “impossible” to the current market. Solar products, specifically, have been part of this dynamic, creative wave, and while solar energy has taken a liking to the spotlight of 2014, it has proven itself over the last few years, not just in 2014, to be an increasingly viable option for use all over the world from private, small scale projects to large utility scale power plants. Despite its recurrent appearance in various forms, surprisingly, not everyone has converted to the ways of photovoltaics.

For the few skeptics still left out there, here is Solarplaza’s 2014 Top 10 list of Holiday Gifts to help convert your loved ones to the world of solar. This list may even surprise even the most solar-happy of readers, with gadgets and gift ideas from all over the spectrum for all ages and types of solar users. This list unfortunately cannot mention all of the incredible, innovative ideas that are currently available on the market, but it does bring attention to not only some of the more popular, but also some of the lesser-known products that could bring the solar enthusiasts in your life a lot of cheer this holiday season!




#1 Fisker Karma


Price : Runs around $100,000 USD new/ 2011-12 models can be found used between $40-80,000 USD.
Developer : Fisker Automobile (now Wanxiang America Corp. for the 2014-15 models)
Specifications : Four door plug-in hybrid, running up to 50 miles on electric power and 250 on gas, 0-60 in 6.3 seconds, optimal animal free and vegan friendly  interior, solar paneled roof that charges the radio and the climate control system.
Where to Buy : The new Fisker can be ordered at the Fisker HQ in Anaheim, CA, and used Fiskers can be bought at various second-hand dealers around the world
Why We Like It : This incredibly sporty, sleek car can keep up with its competitors on looks alone. When it comes to functionality, practicality and safety, the Fisker scores very well. While the price tag is steep, we are just glad to see the Fisker making a comeback, especially as it remains to be the first car to have a solar paneled roof (and that is pretty cool).
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#2 Solar Jackets


Price : $599 USD for both men’s and women’s models
Developer : Tommy Hilfiger in conjunction with Pvilion
Specifications : Snap on and off solar panels that can charge up to two devices via USB cord and stores energy when not in use. The water resistant, lightweight removable solar panel unit is made with flexible amorphous silicon technology developed by Pvilion. When exposed to full sunlight, the high output solar cells can fully charge the battery pack which can fully charge a standard 1500mAh mobile device up to four times. 50% of proceeds from these coats will go directly to the Fresh Air Fund.
Where to Buy : Tommy Hilfiger stores worldwide
Why We Like It : These jackets are practical, warm, and weather resistant. The panels do come off for cleaning purposes or if you don’t need to charge anything while being inside, for example, and as the first coat of its kind, it’s definitely a solid option for the outdoorsy type who won’t be near an outlet for a day or two. We hope this kind of jacket, especially coming from such a popular brand, will spur other designers in a similar direction with perhaps even more affordable, potentially more subtle solar clothing items (solar hats or shoes, maybe?)
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#3 Solar Oven


Price : $239 USD
Developer : Go Sun Sport
Specifications : This tube-shaped solar cooker uses parabolic mirrors to concentrate sunlight and cook the contents inside- it can cook an entire meal in twenty minutes, reaching temperatures of 550F and 290 C. It is the first of its kind to cook entire meals and not just items, such as hard-boiling an egg.
Where to Buy: Go Sun Sport’s online shop or SHFT online shop
Why We Like It : The solar oven is lightweight, so it can be brought along on outdoor camping and travel adventures. If you’re not so outdoorsy, it can also be used in the backyard for a barbecue in the summer so you don’t have to run back and forth between your guests and the kitchen. While we aren’t sure just how much food it can hold at once, it might be advisable to first try this out for yourself and another friend who doesn’t have a huge appetite. If all goes well, you should be dinner party ready in no time.
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#4 Rugged Rukus Smartphone Charging Speaker System


Price : $100 USD
Developer : Eton
Specifications : This wireless speaker is Bluetooth-enabled, so it will happily pair up with any device that supports streaming, then deliver tunes through a pair of full-range speakers. The 20-inch solar panel promises continuous playback with a five hour daily sunbath, and its rechargeable battery can also be used to top off your other devices through an included powered USB port. It also has carrying loops for easy transport.
Where to Buy : Eton’s online shop or SHFT online shop
Why We Like it : This device is great for anytime you might be outside. Whether you’re on a boat for the day, on a hike, or laying at the park, you can always have your music, your phone, and any other devices you might need to charge up. The solar panel is not huge and won’t take up a ton of space in your bag, so it is a realistic accessory for anyone engaging in outdoor activities.
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Trunk Bag

#5 Bicycle Trunk Bags


Price : $70-80 USD (bag dependent)
Developer : Eclipse Solar Gear
Specifications : These bike trunk bags fit carefully over the rear wheel, with a flexible external solar panel, 1.5 W power, a single charge port, reflective and water resistant material, and a removable shoulder strap in case you need to bring the bag along.
Where to Buy : Eclipse Solar Gear online shop
Why We Like It :  For all cycling enthusiasts, these bags are a must have. What began as a practical idea for policemen on bicycles has now become an item for all cyclers, particularly in more rainy climates where a heavier duty bag is needed.
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#6 Solar Bike Lock


Price : $159 USD
Developer : Skylock CC
Specifications : Skylock won't be available until the start of 2015, but they are currently available for preorder. They boast a keyless entry, wifi capabilities so that you lock and unlock your bike via your phone, they connect easily to bluetooth, charge themselves in the sun, and have a click and go system.
Where to Buy : SHFT Online shop or from the company directly at Skylock CC Online shop
Why We Like I t: This lock pairs nicely with the bicycle trunk bags, covering all your cycling needs. This lock has intelligent technology so you never have to fiddle with broken keys or locks again. Bike thieves, be wary of this solar technology!
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#7 Business Class Men’s Side Bags


Price : $249-299 euros (bag dependant)
Developer : SunnyBag
Specifications : These side bags have a built in USB output to charge all various kinds of devices, charge up to 3.6 W power, are lightweight (less than 2kg), made from genuine leather, and are water and dust resistant.
Where to Buy : SunnyBag online shop or at various store locations (specifically in Austria)
Why We Like It : As far as solar bags go, these are some of the best looking currently on the market. These men’s bags are sturdy, functional for work, easy to carry, and charge personal electronics even while the sun isn’t out as it stores energy for later. SunnyBag makes all kinds of models, so if a side bag isn’t really your style, check out their other options, such as the Solar Backpack.
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String Lights

#8 Solar String Lights


Price : $39.99 USD
Developer : Soji
Specifications : The set of 10 nylon LED lamps harness the energy of the sun to emit a warm and punchy glow. With 33 feet of wire, they can be strung over branches and terraces to transform your outdoor space into an enchanted garden. Just place the lamps outside in direct sunlight and you get four to six hours of eco-friendly ambiance.
Where to Buy : AllSop home and garden online shop under Soji Solar Lanterns or SHFT online shop
Why We Like It : These lanterns come in individual packs or strings of ten, and either way they are a beautiful addition to any garden or backyard. After soaking up sun during the day, they provide enough light for an evening garden party, or if you happen to be outside using your solar oven, they will give off enough light for you to cook and enjoy a meal with your guests. These lights are special because they are one of the few solar items that do not come with the purpose of charging something via USB or dock, such as a smartphone or iPod. These lights are there to provide you with something nice to look at, or a nice outdoor atmosphere where you can enjoy the people around you.
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Laptop Charger

#9 Solar Laptop Case Charger


Price : $399.99 USD
Developer : Voltaic
Specifications : With high-efficiency solar cells and a custom battery pack, the laptop case serves as a charger that powers everything from laptops and cell phones, to cameras and other handheld electronics. It has a 17.6 W panel, which charges electronics quickly and efficiently, particularly when in direct sunlight. One hour in direct sunlight charges a smartphone for up to 12 hours.
Where to Buy : Voltaic Systems online shop or SHFT online shop
Why We Like It : While most solar gadgets tend to charge phones or iPods, this case does it all. If you have a laptop, you can charge it. iPad? Charge it. iPhone or iPod? Charge it. Kindle? Charge that too. So while this bag may not be able to charge your new Fisker Karma, it can charge everything smaller than a large laptop very, very quickly.
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#10 Solar Emergency Radio Kit


Price : $31.99 USD
Developer : Eton
Specifications : This hand-powered Microlink is a contemporary emergency radio that boasts a large solar panel, quick recharging time and access to all seven NOAA weather band stations. Turn the crank for a 90 seconds and you get up to 40 minutes of playtime. Or if you're lazy, let the solar panel absorb energy from the sun. There is also a headphone jack as well as a USB port to charge your cell phones. A bright LED flashlight completes the emergency kit.
Where to Buy : Eton’s online shop or SHFT online shop
Why We Like It : For a reasonable price, this emergency kit does all kinds of things. Whether you’re caught in a sudden storm or get a flat tire after a day of outdoor activities, this little device can act as your flashlight, info portal via the radio, and phone charger. One thing is for sure, if you get stuck in a storm at night on the side of the road, the three things you would likely need most are a radio connection for updates, a flashlight to try and repair your vehicle, and a bit of battery in your phone to alert tow trucks and friends of your location. So while this handy gadget is number 10 on our list, it certainly is not because of impracticality!
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