A Last-Minute Christmas Gift

Looking for a last-minute Christmas gift for the renewable energy nut in your life? How about a Tesla Model S starting at $69,900? Too much? No problem. How about solar panels installed on the house starting at $18,000? Still too much? No problem. I’ve got the gift for you then. The Powermonkey Extreme. Huh, what is that?

Powermonkey Extreme solar panels open on the side of a mountain

Looks cool, but who puts their iPhone in the snow? (source: http://www.powertraveller.com)

My brother-in-law Daniel recently gave me one as a gift. He said is unit in the Marines uses them (more on renewable energy in the military in a later post). In basic terms, it is a solar powered charger for your mobile devices. The kit includes a solar panel, a 9000mAh lithium polymer battery, plugs for different regions, 8 tips for different mobile devices and a travel case. As you would expect, it can recharge the typical 5 volt devices such as tablets, smart phones, GoPros and GPSes. However, this one can also handle 12v devices, so you can recharge DSLR batteries, portable DVD players and other devices. You can’t cut the cord with this, but you can say see you later to the socket.

In addition to the military, the device is marketed toward relief agencies, hikers, skiers and boaters. Their use however is limited only by how creative consumers can be with them. Many technologies become more powerful and more popular when people find unexpected uses for them.

Less important than what it can do though is that you can buy it and hold it in your hands. It is an example of how rapidly renewable energy is moving into the consumer market. Rooftop solar, electric cars, solar-powered chargers. As these things become more common, prices will continue to drop and new innovations will come to the market. What’s next, personal wind turbines?

Think about the commercialization of the personal computer. The first ones were clunky, limited capability devices that only early adopters could love. The advent of the Apple II, Commodore 64, TRS-80 (Trash 80) and others brought computers into the average home. I remember thinking how cool my dad was for buying us a Tandy 1000. I used to play “Hunt the Wumpus” for hours off a cassette tape player connected to our computer. As PCs became more powerful and sleeker, more people bought them. Over time they evolved into laptops, tablets and the smart phones many of us carry in our pockets. Will any of these renewable energy products become as commercially popular as smart phones? I doubt it, but I’m excited to see them enter their Trash 80 era.

As cool as the Powermonkey Extreme is, there is another gift that is even better and not only is it carbon-free, it is cost-free. Skip the stores and instead spend time with the people who matter the most to you. If you feel compelled to give them something, write them a note telling them how important they are to you or craft something with your own hands. Giving of yourself is the best, and most environmentally friendly, gift you can give.

Merry Christmas to all!


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