Photo via GSMA
The makers of HyMini had the right idea a few years ago when they made their wind-powered charger. It was one of the first we'd seen. And as solar cells became more common for small scale gadget charging, the designers added a solar component. We've seen more of these small, off-grid chargers perfect for cell phones and other handheld devices come onto the market, along with larger versions powerful enough to charge laptops. And it turns out these are more than just novelties for fringe greenies. They're part of an industry that can not only reduce the carbon footprint of our gadgets, but is also worth billions. According to EETimes, "Up to 500 million mobile users...in emerging countries could benefit from the provisioning of off-grid charging solutions such as solar phones or external solar chargers, according to a report from the GSMA. The results -- and the figure of a $2.3 billion opportunity -- are based on research for the Association's Green Power for Mobile (GPM) programme, which has identified a range of charging choices available that, if implemented effectively, will extend service availability and could boost average revenues per user by 10-14 percent."
The findings are specifically for mobile phone charging, particularly for mobile phone operators. But items like solar powered phones, portable solar chargers, solar-wind hybrid chargers and - ahem - even solar clothing are solutions for off-grid charging and part of a significantly growing market.
David Taverner, GPM Programme Manager, GSMA says, "The figures we used to calculate the market size of off-grid charging solutions were on the conservative side, so the actual benefit to mobile operators could in fact be much greater than the $2.3 billion we are estimating."
As is pointed out, 60% of mobile operators interviewed in the study already have or are exploring off-grid charging initiatives. For instance, we've watched Ericsson experiment with installing renewably powered cell phone base stations. And more portable options for charging multiple phones at once have been seen from companies like Got Wind. However, more options for developing nations need to be devised, and getting people to think of using renewable power first is a challenge.
Photo via GSMA
Still, the study shows that the interest is there, and the momentum is growing - a positive thing considering our energy use is still outpacing our energy efficiency efforts.
More on Off-Grid Charging
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Mobile Device Roundup: Charging Up Without the Grid
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