Solar chargers for mobile devices tend to be, well, a bit rubbish. Primarily because most of them are big batteries with solar panels stuck to them. The World Panel SunStream ditches the battery, and pushes power (up to 5V) straight through a USB port. Which means you can charge anything from an entry-level feature phone right up to a high-end smartphone using the device.
Moreover, the World Panel is built with longevity and hardiness in mind. The units are drop tested, the entire package can withstand high temperatures, the solar panel is housed behind reinforced glass and the ruggedised body is entirely waterproof — meaning the panel even works when it’s fully submerged.
“I originally visited Africa with a solar prototype for household purposes and was consistently asked by residents whether it could charge their phones,” says World Panel CEO, John Anderson. “I’ve returned with a product that is essential for anyone who owns a mobile phone but who has limited access to dependable energy sources.”
Anderson’s first solar solutions for Africa were aimed at helping people heat food, but it soon became clear that charging mobile devices was what most people actually wanted and needed.
At a Vodacom store near you, soon
South African mobile Vodacom has announced it will serve as a retail partner for World Panel and sell its SunStream products in select stores. The announcement came at this week’s AfricaCom event taking place in Cape Town.
“We are honored that Vodacom has joined us as a retail partner and are looking forward to reports on how the SunStream is changing lives and delivering energy independence across the African continent,” Anderson says.
World Panel’s hardware is made in production facility in Colorado in the US, and Anderson says the facility can produce up to 10 million units per year.
The SunStream solar panel has a recommended retail price of R200. World Panel also sells an optional battery pack called a PowerStream, a cable that allows a users to connect two SunStream panels together called a PowerLink and a one metre USB extension cable, but Vodacom hasn’t said whether or not it will stock these accessories.
We’ll have a full review of the SunStream up in coming weeks. If it’s even half as good as it says it is, we’re going to want a dozen of them.