If you want to use solar power, but can't install solar panels, the new SunPort gadget aims to make going solar easy and affordable.
Although residential solar is getting cheaper and cheaper all the time, it's not for everyone, yet choosing renewable energy doesn't always have to require a huge financial commitment, or even a rooftop. Instead of generating solar energy onsite with a solar array, a new solar delivery model, called SunPort, uses a small gadget that plugs into a standard wall socket and allows users to choose solar power on demand.
The SunPort device and its accompanying app uses Internet of Things (IoT) technology to track how much grid electricity you're using through it, and then automatically purchases solar microcredits (called SunJoules) through the nonprofit ReChoice. These solar microcredits are formed by breaking up larger Solar Renewable Certificates (S-RECs) into increments small enough to be used for an individual's electricity usage. This system allows SunPort users to upgrade their use of grid electricity to the consumption of clean renewable solar energy instead, and requires no lengthy commitment or hefty financial costs.
"These solar credits, officially called Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (S-RECs), are created every time real solar is produced from real panels and delivered to the electric power grid. They actually offer the only way to use solar without going off the grid. That’s why S-RECs were invented—to let anyone access solar power and help grow the solar energy market." - SunPort
The SunPort can be plugged in anywhere you would normally plug in your devices, whether it's your home or a coffeeshop or work, so it's a simple way to choose solar no matter where you are. The SunPort app not only tracks your personal solar electricity usage through a single device or set of them, but also lets you track the collective impact of all SunPort users as well.
While the SunPort is only designed to work for a single outlet, powering individual devices (or multiple small devices), not an entire house, it might be easy to dismiss this project as one with an incredibly small effect, but at the core of the SunPort initiative is the intention of increasing demand for solar, which could help to drive the overall market. And for those who do wish to power their entire home with solar, without installing solar panels, many utilities offer the choice of purchasing an equivalent amount of solar energy through their billing system.
"SunPort drives us to think differently about what it means to go solar. It gives anyone the ability to use solar energy without having to own a rooftop or install panels. Since SunPort enables drastically increased personal use of solar, it serves as a new mechanism to create and aggregate demand for solar energy. Our hope is that widespread adoption can increase the value of solar energy to the point it unleashes much more solar development across the country. Even moderate use can show our leaders that people are demanding a shift to renewable sources of energy." - Paul Droege, creator of SunPort
According to SunPort, an entire month's worth of solar energy purchased through the device will only cost about $1 or $2 USD (or around $20/year) which is a small price to pay for the option of getting clean electricity to power your devices. For a full-house solar array, it could easily set you back somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000 or more, but for backers of the company's Kickstarter campaign, a single SunPort (which also includes a year's worth of unlimited solar energy credits) can be had for just $49, and backers at higher amounts can get multiple SunPorts for an even lower price.