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CES Shines Light On Latest Solar Innovations

LAS VEGAS — A wave of manufacturers brought some sunshine to the floor of International CES in the form of innovative new solar devices.

One of the most innovative devices was also one of the simplest. The Luci solar-powered light from Mpowerd is a low-cost, durable lighting solution that features 10 LED lights in a collapsible, waterproof, transparent cylinder that weighs 4 ounces. It can brighten up to 15 square feet of space for six to 12 hours once charged in direct or indirect sunlight for four to six hours. Its rechargeable lithium-ion battery can hold a charge for up to three months.

The lights can be set to high, dimmed or flash. Each Luci retails for $15.99, or $19.99 for a two-pack.

The company is targeting the camping, eco-devotee and disaster-preparedness markets initially with the Luci, said Jacques-Philippe Piverger, chief executive and cofounder of Mpowerd, but added that with about 3.1 billion people living with little or no access to energy worldwide, he sees the Luci as an affordable and ecologically friendly lighting solution for energy- challenged regions of the world.

Mpowerd is trying to raise $200,000 in development funds on the crowd-funding site Indiegogo.

Ascent Solar Technologies came to CES by showcase its Enerplex-brand Kickr IV, a lightweight, flexible solar panel kit designed for portability.

Folded, the Kickr IV can be stowed in a backpack or handbag. Unfolded, the panels can be placed on any open space in the sun to charge, including a vehicle’s dashboard. It is rain resistant, though not submersible. It charges portable devices such as smartphones and tablets via a USB port, providing a total of 4.5 watts of regulated power, which will charge at the same speed as a wall outlet, the company said.

Utilizing CIGS solar cells manufactured on plastic substrate, as opposed to the glass and crystalline substrate in most panels, the Kickr IV can withstand most drops and spills and weighs in at less than 12 ounces.

Also on display from Ascent was the EnerPlex Jump, a multipurpose battery pack that can store the solar power generated from the Kickr IV solar charger, or from a conventional plug-in power source. The charged Jumpr can then be used to recharge or power devices on the go. The Jumpr line includes the 4400, rated for 4,400 mAh, that can provide about three recharges to a smartphone, and the larger 7800, rated for 7,800 mAh, which will charge larger devices such as tablets.

“With these two products, everyone from backpackers to road warriors can virtually live life untethered and power their smartphones or other electronic devices offgrid,” Victor Lee, Ascent’s president/CEO, told TWICE.

The EnerPlex Jumpr is available for sale alone or bundled with the Kickr IV through Ascent’s website.

Ascent also showed its line iPhone 4 and 4S solar charging cases as well as a model for the Samsung Galaxy S III.

Eton came to CES with a line of solar-powered battery packs and portable audio speakers.

The company’s BoostSolar has a single solar panel to charge a battery pack or mobile device via USB. Its lithium battery fully charges in 10 hours under the sun, though it also has a MicroUSB DC input that can fully charge in seven hours. It retails for $100.

Eton’s Rukus XL and Rugged Rukus, are solar-charging speaker systems with Bluetooth one-touch pairing.

The 7-pound XL, at $200, has a form factor similar to the company’s Soulra solar boomboxes. It charges in five hours in the sun, giving about eight hours of playback. It has eight speakers and delivers 22 watts of stereo sound.

The lightweight Rugged Rukus, priced at $100, has a splash-proof rubberized exterior, a 20-square-inch solar panel and a USB port for charging mobile devices.

The speakers will ship in the first half of this year.

SunnyBag, an Austria-based company, showed a leather briefcase equipped with flexible 3-watt solar panels tethered to a 1,600 mAh battery with a USB cable to charge a smartphone or tablet. The bags are dark brown or black cowskin-leather, and designed as a shoulderbag for laptops and paperwork. The high-powered panels allow the internal battery to be charged even on cloudy or overcast days.

Finally, BigBelly Solar is aiming to save municipalities money and power with its BigBelly solar compactor, which not only uses a solar panel to power its internal recyclable compactor, but is also connected to a cellular network and reports its capacity level to the waste collection company. If a bin is half full or less, the company doesn’t have to waste time or fuel to empty it right away. The collection company can see all its bins on a map with green, yellow and red indicators representing the fullness of each bin and can then route trucks only to the bins needing to be emptied.

The bins have been installed in Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia, and the company reported that “interest is very high” among major cities across the country.