Solar Power Goes Main Stream – I mean Main Street

Amanda Beals has been trying to get me to post some of Main Streets “Environmental Coverage” for a while now. Here one is but Solar Jackets by Designer People? Whoa 


5 Solar Solutions

By Sean Leviashvili (07/28/08)

The Greatest Green Gadgets Ever

Some companies are struggling to go green, but rumor has it Toyota (TM) is going greener.

Japanese business paper the Nikkei reported earlier this month that the company plans to install solar panels on the redesigned Prius in 2009. The solar panels will provide two to five kilowatts of electricity to power utilities like air conditioners and radios.

Sales for the Prius are booming, especially in light of rising gas prices and the growing go-green trend. But if you aren’t ready to give up your gas guzzler, or simply can’t afford a $25,000 car, there are other ways you can get in on the solar craze.

Take a Look!

It’s in the Bag:

With an internal rechargeable battery, the Solio Classic charger acts as a hybrid giving you the option to connect to a home outlet or accept energy from the sun. The Solio can charge multiple gadgets including an iPod (AAPL), cell phone or digital camera. Check out the range of models ($79.95-169.95) at Depending on the amount of sunlight, the Solio charger is capable of charging your gadget in under two hours.


To charge on the go, invest in a solar backpack or messenger bag. According to Krissie Nagy, a sales and marketing representative from Voltaic Systems, an hour of direct sunlight will yield 1.5 hours of full cell phone use, or 3 hours of iPod play. Voltaic bags come with eleven different adaptors, including the latest Samsung charger, along with a car charger socket that covers adaptors not included.

Different bags have different charging potentials, and the devices you plan on charging should influence your purchasing decision. Charging a laptop, for example, is only possible in bags yielding at least 17 watts of electricity, such as the Voltaic Generator, available at for $599.

Solar Jackets:
The Ermenegildo Zegna designed solar powered jacket charges devices right in your pocket. But this luxury doesn’t come cheap. The price: $995. According to the company’s official website,, the jacket uses solar cells on the detachable neoprene collar, and powers devices at 5 or 6 volts, so it can charge your cell phone or iPod, but nothing larger.


Solar Water Heating:
Installing a solar water heating system costs between $5,000 and $8,000, says Gary Trainer, professional engineer for Solarplex in San Antonio, Texas. The installation process requires solar panels and a separate water tank, which works with anti-freeze and your home’s original water tank to produce hot water. The system, Trainer says, can cover 60 to 80% of your total water heating needs. And, while the initial purchase is costly, the long-term payoff is substantial. “After about eight years, you’ll really see the value in the system,” Trainer says. “At that point, the system will basically pay for itself.”

Solar Pool Heating:
With solar pool heating, you can extend your swim season by months. Depending on the size of your pool, buying and installing a solar pool-heating system costs anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000. According to the, a branch of the Department of Energy’s website that focuses on energy efficiency and renewable energy, the cost of heating your pool with solar power runs from $7 to $12 per square foot.

Solar pool heating can save hundreds of dollars each year, and according to Trainer, this system has the greatest payoff of all solar heating systems. “The most expensive installment is the conventional grid type stuff, where you use solar power to reduce the energy your in-house utilities use,” Trainer admits. “But it’s not difficult to install a [solar] heating system for your pool for three or five thousand dollars, and the payout is great, it’s about two to four years.”

Solar heating systems all require solar panels (amount will vary based on the system), and a prior consultation to decide if solar power is right for you.

“There are certain conditions where it is just impractical,” Trainer says. “Trees are usually the number one reason, along with space limitation, and limited access to the sun.”

For more information on how to incorporate solar energy into your life, log on to The Department of Energy’s official website.


2 thoughts on “Solar Power Goes Main Stream – I mean Main Street

  1. Pingback: Solar Power Goes Main Stream - I mean Main Street ·

  2. Pingback: Solar Power Goes Main Stream - I mean Main Street

Leave a Reply