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Dell, Lenovo Adding Solar Option for PCs 184

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the well-not-exactly dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Lenovo just announced a solar power option for PCs, and Dell is about to do the same, according to Advanced Energy Group. But the solar hardware weights 86 pounds and costs $1,300! Lenovo officials admit they had to do this to reach the 75% mark to gain EPEAT Gold status; Dell couldn't be reached for comment. Hopefully the technology will get smaller and more affordable."
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Dell, Lenovo Adding Solar Option for PCs

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  • All right! (Score:5, Funny)

    by iknowcss (937215) on Sunday September 16, 2007 @12:25PM (#20626157) Homepage
    Just what I need! Solar power for my desktop computer! This will go great right next to my windo-- wait. I don't have any windows. Oh, shit.
  • by Donniedarkness (895066) * <Donniedarkness&gmail,com> on Sunday September 16, 2007 @12:28PM (#20626177) Homepage
    ...to get solar power for my laptop!

    Maybe Dell could get a rep for being "pro-fitness", too, with that 86 lb. power supply.

  • Batteries Included (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Sunday September 16, 2007 @12:29PM (#20626185) Homepage Journal
    PC tech has financed huge tech returns for non-PC products, especially in power conservation and management. I'd like to see Dell and other PC OEMs evolve into supplying solar power systems (with embedded PCs for ease of open integration and smart operation) for general use in our homes, offices and mobile.

    A real winner would be mobile phones whose cases all recharge off solar (or just ambient light, even indoors). That kind of mass market could drive down the price:performance curve, open up the tech to all our powered devices. And make the "solar look" popular that even people who buy on nothing but fashion (most people) would start saving power with all these accessories.
    • How long would it take to charge with indoor light, or even reflected sunlight? The solar batteries I've seen require extended periods in direct sun.

      I've been considering a solar charger for all my C/AA/AAA battery powered home devices (remotes, cordless phones, clocks, etc.). Maybe a centralized solution like that might be better. Then you can just put a small panel up on the roof or a south facing wall or something.

      The problem there with cell phones (and watches for that matter) is the utter lack of batte
      • by NeilTheStupidHead (963719) on Sunday September 16, 2007 @01:27PM (#20626743) Journal
        Unfortunately, cellphone batteries are used for vendor lock-in, you can only easily get a new battery directly from the manufacturer at a steep price. I agree that the battery should be an insert with a simple cover over it, but then, when someone makes a phone smaller than a 'standard' cell phone battery, the whole thing goes out the window. And there seems to be this fascination for making cell phones un-usably small. I have a samsung A860, which is the largest phone I could find at the time and I'll be keeping it when I renew my contract as all the new phones I look at have buttons that are too small to push.

        When it comes to watch batteries (properly called button cells): Why do we need different types of 'normal' batteries? (i.e. AA, AAA, D, etc) I seem to remember from school that larger batteries tend to have better output in terms of Amp-Hours, but large batteries are not always practical. Would you carry around an MP3 player that used a D battery instead of an AAA or AA? Very small devices, like hearing aids and watches, need very small and/or very thin batteries, but things like calculators can have larger batteries for longer life span. As far as visually undistinguishable batteries, take a close look at the package, they're often the same battery from a manufacturer with a different numbering scheme or the same battery with different innards (like Ni-cad vs Li-ion). Just look at the wikipedia entry for the extremely common LR44 [wikipedia.org] battery, there are dozens of manufacturer or retailer part numbers. The IEC [wikipedia.org] defines standards for naming, but can't force anyone to use their system of nomenclature. I would double check, but in my experience, two identical-looking button cells are often the same battery but for a manufacturer's stamp.
      • by Doc Ruby (173196)
        The Sun dumps 1KW:m^2 on the Earth's surface at Noon. Indoor lighting probably lands at best 5W:m^2. But it's better than nothing. A phone with 0.9Ah, 3.6V batteries (that last 72h) consumes about 0.045W while waiting to ring. That means a 1% efficient 1m^2 solar panel could keep them charged, even accumulate over 10% faster than they're draining (ie. recharge in about 7h). A 5x10mm phone is 0.005m^2, or 0.025W incoming. A 20% solar panel on it could get 0.005W, which could add 10% longer life - 7h more. Wh
  • Yep. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    This is exactly how you are going to "save the planet" by solving the energy problem, folks. Not by not using coal/oil plant electricity. But by captalism: profiting from selling clean energy solutions.
    • Re:Yep. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by toppavak (943659) on Sunday September 16, 2007 @01:10PM (#20626573)
      In terms of "saving the planet" or solving any kind of energy problem, these kinds of bottom-up approaches simply wont do much in most industrialized countries. Its simply much more efficient (energy efficient, cost efficient etc) to centralize power generation- even considering losses through distribution. Even if we expand our power generation capabilities through the consumption of oil or coal, using electric cars that charge off of that infrastructure will be more efficient than placing small ICE in cars they way things are currently done. In industrial-scale facilities its also easier / cheaper to install highly effective scrubbers than it would be to install similar technology in every single vehicle / generator currently in use. Replace those oil/coal/gas burning generators with nuclear and your overall positive impact on the environment goes through the roof. The point is, putting a few small and expensive solar panels on your house to run a computer isnt going to make a difference well, not as much of a difference anyways, as centralized industrial-scale efforts for alternate technologies. Its cheaper, its easier, its more painless and it doesnt really require people to change their lifestyles. Stop asking people to drive less, pressure your local government to phase in more and better public transportation systems. Enforce more rigorous controls on vehicle efficiency and put in place requirements for the implementation of transitional technologies such as hybrid and LPG powered systems. Build more nuclear and wind power plants, start a reprocessing program to reduce the amount of hazardous waste coming out of the nuclear plants. Expand power distribution infrastructure in anticipation of a greater demand as centralized power is utilized more for plug-in type vehicles and public transportation systems. Phase out oil and coal fired plants, keep expanding nuclear generation capabilities, increase funding in power storage research and invest heavily in battery recycling programs. With aggressive governmental and corporate backing of such policies I dont think it would be unreasonable to ban the ICE within the next 50-75 years, and either have significantly reduced or completely ceased the production of electricity through the consumption of coal and oil. It wouldnt matter if oil is going to run out in 50 years or 150 if we're prepared for it. It doesnt matter if we've caused the globe to heat up yet or not, it will never be something we have to worry about. All this bickering over whether its a problem now or not is completely irrelevant, even if it isnt yet, it will be. Maybe not in the next century, maybe so. It doesnt matter. The problem with democracies is that most are almost universally incapable of planning for the future. It doesnt fucking matter if its a problem today or not if its going to be a problem in the future. Expand our fiber networks today, phase out environmentally harmful technologies today, push the envelope of human technology and progress. FUCKING DO SOMETHING PEOPLE. We have the technology, we have the resources. It will cost a lot yes, but nowhere near as much as enacting hasty fixes to save our asses once its crunch time.
      • Mod Parent Up! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Conspicuous Coward (938979) on Sunday September 16, 2007 @02:10PM (#20627133)
        Solar powered PC's for 1500$ are a prime example of what's wrong with the consumerist approach to environmentalism.
        I doubt whether the energy saved by running a PC off this thing will even offset the energy used in it's manufacture, but hey it sounds good and people go "aren't dell good environmentalists".

        Everybody goes out and replaces their (perfectly functioning) fords with a "green" Prius. Totally ignoring the fact that manufacturing the Prius itself requires large amounts of energy, therefore emitting a lot of carbon. It would be better for the planet to keep to old car for a few years, or even better to use public transport.

        The consumerist approach to environmentalism is like trying to fight WWII by asking individual members of the population to buy guns and go out and shoot a few Germans in their spare time. If governments took this problem remotely as seriously as they claim to there would be proper regulation, as indeed there must be. Consumerism will not solve this problem, we need people who can actually add up working out how existing resources can best be directed to save the planet; not the bloody marketing department at dell.
        • Solar powered PC's for 1500$ are a prime example of what's wrong with the consumerist approach to environmentalism. I doubt whether the energy saved by running a PC off this thing will even offset the energy used in it's manufacture, but hey it sounds good and people go "aren't dell good environmentalists".

          Your manufacturing energy argument is largely irrelevant since nearly all these consumers were going to buy a laptop regardless of whether it is green or not. Given that a computer is needed, it is go
        • by dbIII (701233)
          I don't know about you but I have seen pocket calculators that plug into the wall - and now we have solar ones. This is really about practicality and not really about idealism. It is inconvenient to use a pocket calculator that needs mains power, and a laptop that you need to plug into the wall every couple of hours is also inconvenient.

          I think you are right that the way to save energy is for large groups to do it with an economy of scale. In my opinion this is things like governments building decent tra

          • I think you are right that the way to save energy is for large groups to do it with an economy of scale. In my opinion this is things like governments building decent transport systems and corporations housing their new factories and offices in buildings that require less energy to keep running. A few skylights, something like the soon to be released light pipes (similar to a really big bundle of fibre optic cables made of cheap plastic to pipe in sunlight and give you a skylight), insulation and even paint

            • by dbIII (701233)
              One interesting anecdote about wind power in China is that an Australian company is selling more wind generation equipment to China this year than is currently installed in all of Australia. The pollution problem in China is going to take a very long time to solve and I think one of the solutions they will try is small electric vehicles in some of the heavily polluted cities. Current technology makes the EV1 look like an old golf cart designed to be far too heavy.

              As for compact flouros - those of you unlu

              • One interesting anecdote about wind power in China is that an Australian company is selling more wind generation equipment to China this year than is currently installed in all of Australia.

                From what I understand Southwestern Australia is a good location for wind farms.

                The pollution problem in China is going to take a very long time to solve and I think one of the solutions they will try is small electric vehicles in some of the heavily polluted cities.

                Within 10 years I wouldn't be surprised if Chin

      • I don't see how all that "concern for the future" talk is going to help me afford mah Hummer.
  • by weirdcrashingnoises (1151951) on Sunday September 16, 2007 @12:32PM (#20626219) Journal
    Hopefully the technology will get smaller and more affordable.

    ...and a resounding "DUH" was heard across the lands...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by InvalidError (771317)
      Not quite sure how this would be possible.

      Consumer-grade panels are less than 20% efficient, an average PC with an average monitor and some gadgets attached use about 150W, at ~12h/day, this is about 1.5kWh/day. There is usable sunlight less than 8h/day so the solar array needs to provide at least 600W during that period under worst-case lighting conditions to enable fully off-the-grid operation and this requires at least five square meters of said consumer-grade panels. With much of the usage occuring outs
  • How many trees... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tx (96709) on Sunday September 16, 2007 @12:35PM (#20626237) Journal
    ...could you plant for $1300? That's something many environmental types love to ignore. They spend large amounts of money on things that have pretty small environmental benefits, and then say "every little bit counts" and so forth. Whereas what they should be asking is "how could I spend this money so as to do the most good/least damage to the environment?"
    • by Dunbal (464142) on Sunday September 16, 2007 @12:40PM (#20626289)
      could you plant for $1300? That's something many environmental types love to ignore.

            but if i plant trees then there will be too much shade to run my solar PC, you insensitive clod!
      • but if i plant trees then there will be too much shade to run my solar PC, you insensitive clod!

        By that time the trees will be mature enough to cut down and burn in your own steam power generator. You just need to stagger the planting/replanting so you have something mature to chop down each year. :-)
    • trees and solar (Score:3, Insightful)

      by zogger (617870)
      ...here, have a few freebie trees on me! Go ahead, claim a dozen, they are cheap! You have to go way out of your way to NOT have trees gradually take over pastureland. We have untold *thousands and thousands* of wild trees sprout all on their own here every year. Carbon offsets and new green taxes and whatnot though are scams, pure bloated governmental bureaucracy/corporate dodgy scams.

      With that said, solar PV *works* and works well, and is affordable now if you extrapolate probable electricity costs for a
      • Re:trees and solar (Score:4, Insightful)

        by BlueParrot (965239) on Sunday September 16, 2007 @01:25PM (#20626709)

        With that said, solar PV *works* and works well, and is affordable now if you extrapolate probable electricity costs for a coupla decades into the future.

        It works if you ignore that it has a poor energy/dollar ratio as compared to a wind turbine. Even if you ignore all other short comings of solar photovoltaic cells, you still won't get away from this simple fact. Wind power is cheaper. MUCH cheaper. Of course, on life cycle costs modern nuclear power plants are cheaper still, but I suspect you don't like those or won't believe me, so I'm using wind power instead. It doesn't really matter, the conclusion is still the same.

        There is one advantage to solar however, and it is why you use it on satellites and other remote installations. It requires very little maintenance, no refuelling, and it is extremely portable. In most applications a battery will prove to be more suitable, but in certain niche applications where recharging or refuelling is impractical ( as it is on a satellite or Mars probe ) solar cells are popular.

        For laptops I'd rate it as simply stupid. A simple conservation of energy calculation against incoming insulation and the capacity of a Li-ion battery should make this obvious. Maybe if you are studying the ecology of a remote pacific Island or something, but for normal consumers it is just a waste of cash.
        • Solar power is quite popular for remote stations no where near the grid. Diesel generators are better if you have regular supplies coming in, but if not solar is far superior.

          Wind power is far too variable and location specific to be of much use.
        • by zogger (617870) on Sunday September 16, 2007 @02:52PM (#20627459) Homepage Journal
          ...and before you casually hurl "know it all" insults. I live in georgia, and also own an aeromarine wind power generator, but I use solar for my alternative energy of choice, because it works *much much better* here than wind. There's no one single "best" power source, it depends on use, location, etc. Solar just works hella better here than wind, right now,I am getting decent sun, but the wind is quite calm. Other areas it is way more windy most of the year, but solar might not be as good. Some guys are lucky and can run decent hybrid systems, using both, especially good as wind picks up in the winter when there is less sun, and vice versa. It just depends. Here ya go, look at some solar and wind potential maps [nrel.gov]

          I've been into alternative energy since the 60s (you??) when I first worked with my dad and we built from scratch some solar heating for our swimming pool (added a month decent swimming both spring and fall for only a couple hundred bucks and some labor), and since that time as a hobbiest and also it was my business for a few years (might be again possibly, the interest has picked up a lot this past year with all the energy cost increases), by actually "doing* stuff with it, everything from solar thermal space heating and solar water heating for household use to making biofuel ethanol and methane, working on superinsulated structures (several of those, best dollars you can spend is more insulation and better windows), etc. etc, along with solar PV and wind. I am fully aware of the pluses and minuses of this or that technique and what stuff costs, etc. This isn't theoretical casual web board commentary from me, it is hands on experience. I don't write code, so I don't comment about that a whole lot, but with alternative energy I can speak from some significant experience. I don't claim to be the expert's expert, because I am not, but I do have a lot of hands on with this stuff and try to keep up with the industry in general terms. And it worked just swell with that laptop, and it also ran a reading light and a small TV and a radio at the same time during the evenings, it wasn't stupid at all, it "just worked" for relatively cheap money, and it has been long paid off and the same rig still works fine, even that original single battery that is going on ten years old now works fine, and the larger battery bank is 8 years old now and works fine.
          • I've been into alternative energy since the 60s (you??) when I first worked with my dad and we built from scratch some solar heating for our swimming pool (added a month decent swimming both spring and fall for only a couple hundred bucks and some labor),

            Impressive. That sounds like the exact kind of project many slashdotters would be interested in. Have you thought about doing a writeup and sharing with the world? It may be straightforward (or not), but the crowd on here would love to hear about how you went about doing it then, what you would do different now, etc. Maybe we could learn from your hands-on experience.

            • not much to it... (Score:3, Informative)

              by zogger (617870)
              ..do a site survey, use those maps from the link as part of it, look at your wallet and go for it. to me it is like computers, if you wait for the next great thing and price drops-you'll never own a computer. Comes a time you need to just take the plunge, knowing full well ten years from then there will be better deals. so it goes. but..in the meantime you have some guaranteed juice, and it is a lot cleaner as well, both from an environmental standpoint and from the actual sine wave standpoint. As geeks, we
        • Of course, on life cycle costs modern nuclear power plants are cheaper still

          Cheaper for the company becuase the taxpayer foots the bill for decomissioning, security for transport of fuel, outright subsidies and in the past these things were only a commerical proposition by selling weapons materials at very high prices. Carter didn't stop nuclear power constuction because of his politics - he did it because he knew enough about the subject to see through the bullshit.

          Now if you consider any modern design t

        • It works if you ignore that it has a poor energy/dollar ratio as compared to a wind turbine. Even if you ignore all other short comings of solar photovoltaic cells, you still won't get away from this simple fact. Wind power is cheaper. MUCH cheaper. Of course, on life cycle costs modern nuclear power plants are cheaper still, but I suspect you don't like those or won't believe me, so I'm using wind power instead. It doesn't really matter, the conclusion is still the same.

          Wind is only more efficient than

      • With that said, solar PV *works* and works well, and is affordable now if you extrapolate probable electricity costs for a coupla decades into the future.

        Today the typical payback period for solar systems is about 7 year, ie it takes 7 years to pay for the cost of the system, if sized properly. And most components are rated for service for 10 years or more. Build a solar system and a mortgage can pay for it. Because of the savings more and more mortgage lenders are offering higher mortgages as they kn

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 2short (466733)
      Well, you'd have to buy some deforested land to plant them on, so not very many; and planting trees is mostly a stupid way to help the environment anyway. If there's enough incentive to cut trees down, you won't keep up by planting them, and if there isn't, they'll plant themselves. I consider myself an "environmental type" because when I spend money on things that benefit me, I try to do it in ways that don't have a negative impact on shared resources. Planting trees does little for the environment, and
      • "Planting trees does little for the environment, and squat for me."

        Not quite so, planting trees does a lot for you when time passes and you start to chop some of them. One can get huge profits from that.

        But, anyway, that isn't what the GP expected...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ceejayoz (567949)
      Most things are clunky, rickety, and expensive when first invented. There has to be a starting point.
    • by SuperBanana (662181) on Sunday September 16, 2007 @01:36PM (#20626811)

      That's something many environmental types love to ignore. They spend large amounts of money on things that have pretty small environmental benefits, and then say "every little bit counts" and so forth. Whereas what they should be asking is "how could I spend this money so as to do the most good/least damage to the environment?"

      "They" are "ignoring it" because trees aren't the largest source of oxygen on the planet- phytoplankton in the oceans are. I've seen numbers as high as 90%, but I think most scientists would agree it is "more than half."

      They" are "ignoring it" because trees don't remove industrial pollutants, they don't bring much in the way of renewable energy (they do have lots of side benefits, like preventing erosion, providing habitat for ecosystems, shading the ground and buildings from solar radiation in hot areas, providing renewable construction materials, etc) and so on. Planting trees does jack shit to address the pollution from power plants (more than a third of the United States electricity comes from coal, of which the soot contains radioactive particles among other things), planes, trains, and trucks.

      The problem here is not that manufacturers aren't trying; it's that these companies make a business out of reselling other people's stuff. That Dell laptop was not actually designed by Dell; Apple is one of the few companies to design in-house. Dell goes shopping each year in Asia and sees what OEM laptops it likes, and then slaps their label on 'em.

      What is needed is a company other than Advanced Energy Group slapping a $1400 price tag on what is essentially:

      • A $30 cart with wheels and a handle
      • A $600 dollar solar panel (120W Sunwise)
      • $50-100 in batteries (2-3 car batteries will do in a pinch. AGMs are a little more expensive.)
      • A $30 inverter
      • A $30 charge controller (not sure on this one, but you can get pretty cheap+simple if need be.)

      Far as I can see, they're making a 100% profit margin ON TOP OF RETAIL PRICES for all those components. The problem with most solar "technologies" is that everyone is exceptionally greedy. If they priced the stuff with more reasonable profit margins, they'd sell quite a bit more of 'em.

      • by adolf (21054)
        If they priced the stuff with more reasonable profit margins, they'd sell quite a bit more of 'em.

        Would you rather sell a nickel five times, or a dollar just once?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by adolf (21054)
          And this, ladies and gentleman, is why one should never post to Slashdot before consuming coffee.

          The point I was attempting to make, "would you rather sell a nickle twenty times, or a dollar just once?" is an attempt to illustrate why, exactly, it is that profit margins are so high on low-volume electronics -- or anything else of low volume, for that matter.

          Yeah, sure, they could drop the price and sell a lot more of the photovoltaic kits.

          But they're not trying to sell PV kits, per se, but they are instead
      • "If they priced the stuff with more reasonable profit margins, they'd sell quite a bit more of 'em."

        Solar is currently restricted by supply. Everything people are able to produce gets sold. That is why profits are so big.

        It is also competing with eletronics for inputs and structure, so things may take a lot of time to change.

      • by dbIII (701233)
        What we need and what we'll eventually see is something with flash storage, a low power consumption screen and a low power consumption CPU and then the things could be as ubiquitous as solar powered calculators. You don't need the inverter if you only want DC.
    • by suv4x4 (956391)
      How many trees... ...could you plant for $1300? That's something many environmental types love to ignore. They spend large amounts of money on things that have pretty small environmental benefits, and then say "every little bit counts" and so forth. Whereas what they should be asking is "how could I spend this money so as to do the most good/least damage to the environment?"

      How many trees do I plant to get rid of a plastic waste? Your solution is no better.

      What you claim as a problem, IS a problem, but not
    • Buying (or stipulating that something must be bought) provides an indirect research grant for the technology in question. It isn't as effecient as a direct grant, but it can be much more effective, as the researchers have to show results to get it.
    • by mosch (204)
      I sincerely hope you are trolling.

      No half-reasonable person is going to buy this product for the environment. They might buy it because they want to setup a computer in an area that lacks power (or reliable power).

      If you're not trolling, you are so fucking far-gone on the right-wing anti-environmentalist agenda that you're useless to society.
  • by downix (84795) on Sunday September 16, 2007 @12:38PM (#20626267) Homepage
    First computers and cell phones, then cars which run off of batteries, but use solar panels while sitting at the mall or work parking lot, and finishng up with solar farms running all of our electrical needs through smart reduction of power demands...

    Ok everyone, I feel a hearty round of kumbaya coming on.... **ducks the vegetables**
    • by ArsonSmith (13997)
      Until we find that intercepting all this power from reaching the earth and converting it to energy in the atmosphere causes "Earth Core Cooling(TM)" and atmosphere warming with sever weather to follow.
      • I really wonder how much difference ubiquitous solar power would make compared to our typical activities of clearcutting/paving/etc etc. If anything, I would think hypothetically high efficiency solar panels would serve to offset what we generally do (i.e. dark colored roofs and pavement are the norm, replacing lighter colored plantlife). But I don't really know how all that goes.

        Alternatively, set up extra-planetary solar collectors not in our path of sunlight. Of course, then you have to somehow transfe
  • by Twid (67847) on Sunday September 16, 2007 @12:38PM (#20626273) Homepage
    Once again copying Apple: PowerBook: Solar Powered Solutions [apple.com] - and only 13 years after this support article was written. :)

    Pics here [sinanco.com].

    Someone told me that one of the *old* powerbooks has a replacable top panel in which there was some sort of official apple solar panel option. I did some googling but couldn't find any evidence of that.
    • Allright, I'll bite (Score:2, Interesting)

      by empaler (130732)

      Once again copying Apple: PowerBook: Solar Powered Solutions [apple.com] - and only 13 years after this support article was written. :)

      Pics here [sinanco.com].

      Someone told me that one of the *old* powerbooks has a replacable top panel in which there was some sort of official apple solar panel option. I did some googling but couldn't find any evidence of that.

      From the linked page:

      Note: This article provides information about a non-Apple product. Apple Computer, Inc. is not responsible for its content and mention of this product should not be interpreted as a recommendation by Apple. Please contact the vendor for additional information.

      Also, as far as I can tell, the products are no longer available (neither in original form, nor in "updated" forms).

      To summarize: Hubris.

      Yese, someone made something similar a decade ago. Are you saying that this Lenovo thinks this is so wildly succesful they'd better get into the market?
      Logically speaking, when the 2007 version weighs in at almost 50 kg and does not even completely power the kit, I think it's more to do with the tech being immature rather than being first to mar

      • by Twid (67847)
        Hello Mr. Literal, I was joking! ===> smiley ===

        "Now you're just being peeved and ticked"
        "You mean pedantic."
        "Case in point."

  • Bah (Score:5, Funny)

    by antifoidulus (807088) on Sunday September 16, 2007 @12:48PM (#20626359) Homepage Journal
    just let me know when they provide a nuclear option
  • by Plocmstart (718110) on Sunday September 16, 2007 @12:50PM (#20626383)
    Build your own for around $300: http://www.energyrefuge.com/how-to/solar_power_generator.htm [energyrefuge.com]
    This is essentially the same thing: a solar panel, battery charger, deep-cycle battery, and (optionally if you don't have a 12V laptop adaptor) a power inverter. The solar cell is what costs the most. The battery is what weighs the most.
    • Agreed. Their price is not just outrageous, it is crazy. I am pretty sure I could build it for even less than the $300 you claim.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Otter (3800)
      Sure, but that doesn't help the computer makers check a box on the feature list, which is the whole point here.

      I doubt if they even want to sell any. Do you think Dell wants to be taking support calls about solar panels? They probably deliberately priced it unattractively.

    • I agree this could be provided cheaper, but you underestimated the solar power requirements by a long shot.

      The solar panel suggested in your link is an 18-watt ($175) solar panel, and is inadequate to charge the 60-Ah battery included with the Xantrex Xpower 1500 Powerpack. A complete charge would take several days of full sun.

      The Lenovo & Dell packages include a 110-watt solar panel, which sells for about $6-700 dollars at Real Goods [gaiam.com] or Mr. Solar [mrsolar.com].

      For $1500, you could by a decent laptop for $1000, and t
  • But... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Epsillon (608775) on Sunday September 16, 2007 @12:52PM (#20626403) Homepage Journal
    ...will it run Solaris?

    Joking aside, this is something I have been toying with for the past few months. I have a couple of polycrystaline panels on the roof of the workshop and a small LV controller/wet battery arrangement. Getting LV PSUs for standard PC hardware is a pain, though. They are available, and the beauty of them is that you don't have to faff about with DC-AC inverters, but they're more than double the price of a high-end AC PSU.

    There are also those small PSU modules for the likes of Via's EPIA mini-ITX boards that will supply the other voltages from a single 12V feed. The main problem with these is that they supply the board with 12V directly from the source. With Lead-acid and solar, you can bet that this will vary with load, time of day, weather and other factors. The best solution for off-grid solar is a 24V system with a real 24V DC-DC PSU that will regulate the 12V rails. As soon as I am comfortable remortgaging the house I may get one...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 16, 2007 @12:58PM (#20626441)
    When we factor in the environmental and monetary cost of producing this product (panels and battery systems) to run a PC which would be practically free in terms of cost and carbon emission to run on the grid in many countries...I'm left scratching my head... how is this a good deal for either the environment or the buyer?

    If you really want to save the planet take that $1300 and use it for a down payment on a ground source heat pump for your home.
  • This shares the same problem as all the others. What you want if you are trying to save power is a system that uses the sun as much as it can and fills in the gaps with power from the AC supply. This uses solar only if the main power is cut. Thanks for nothing.

    If anyone from APC or Belkin is reading this... what I want is a reasonably-priced UPS that takes AC power and DC power in and connects to 2 banks of (user-provided) batteries. One bank is for interruptions, the other is to store enough power tha
    • Why have 2 banks when you could only have one? You just need an UPS that can accept two sources of power at once: solar and grid.

      This should already exist, as AFAIK that's how solar powered houses work: charge the batteries, run from solar/battery whenever possible, use AC otherwise.

      BTW, about UPS batteries: Turns out they're actually cheap. APC charges for a battery maybe $140 or so for the RBC5 (2 battery pack). I work at a distributor of various components and a lead-acid battery that fits into an UPS (I
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Technician (215283)
      What you are looking for is here;

      http://www.outbackpower.com/ [outbackpower.com]

      My dad has one of these in his house. When the batteries are topped off, it kicks over an auxiliary load (part of the rest of the house such as freezer and some additional lights) and when that drops the charge, it switches the auxiliary load back to shore power. His computers used for video editing of home movies is on the solar system 24/7. The solar system and windmill is his UPS. His system provides about 30% of his total load. It still d
    • The solar cells and batteries aren't going to pay for themselves over their service lives, and they're *far* more environmentally unfriendly than any responsible power plant.
  • Who here works in a cube farm and doesn't see on a daily basis a few people that could stand to do the exercise and would be better off generating power for the folks that are effective. It would work (and we would get healthier geeks to).
  • by bcrowell (177657) on Sunday September 16, 2007 @01:28PM (#20626745) Homepage

    A more worthwhile goal is just to reduce the power consumption of your PC. The computer referred to in TFA draws 45 W, which is nice and low. I would just call that a victory and stop there. When I built my most recent machine, I decided to go for low power, and without using any particularly exotic hardware, I managed to get it down to 98 W, including the monitor, when the CPU is idle. It's a nice, snappy computer, with a dual-core AMD x64 CPU. If you're shopping for a power supply, make sure and get an 80PLUS model. Another reasonable thing to do, if you're concerned about your impact on the environment, is if you're just going to do word processing, programming, and web browsing, don't buy a gaming machine with a video card that gets hot enough to fry an egg.

    The solar thing being discussed in the article is clearly a silly gimmick. You'd get more environmental bang for the buck by installing photovoltaics on the roof (and that's an option for businesses as well as homeowners). YMMV, but where I live in Southern California we get a lot of sun, and my roof faces south, so photovoltaics ended up being a good deal for me. (It's hard to estimate how long the investment will take to pay for itself, because it depends sensitively on how much electric rates go up in the future. The historical trend has always been up, but it's hard to predict exactly how much more rates will go up in, say, the next 10 years.) There is at least one theoretical situation in which a special-purpose solar panel for a specific device can make sense, and that's where you have a device that uses a lot of power, and can run on DC. The classic example is pool pumps. Pool pumps tend to be insane power hogs, and they use DC motors, so you can actually be more efficient by using special-purpose photovoltaics than plugging into the AC from a general-purpose PV system's inverter. A computer can also run on DC, and I believe in some big data centers they do use hardware that runs on DC, because it saves the electricity that would have been wasted by inefficiency in the individual computers' power supplies. If you were running such a center in an area with a lot of sun, and you had some roof space available, it could certainly be smart to get a big PV system installed, without an inverter, to supply DC to the machines.

    • My current machine is a pretty capable notebook (Dell Lattitude D820) with Core 2 duo. When I use it in the car with an inverter the inverter display normally shows between 20 to 30 watts. I know the supply is rated something much higher, but it never seems to draw that much.
    • YMMV, but where I live in Southern California we get a lot of sun, and my roof faces south, so photovoltaics ended up being a good deal for me.

      Really? What a strange looking house you must have. I'm in Southern California too, but my roof faces UP, like every other house I've seen... How do you keep the rain out? Shingles on the wall that faces upwards?
  • ...we could figure out a way to convert the profanatory output of a 13 year old whilst playing over Xbox Live into energy, not only could such devices power the Xbox and TV used, it is quite possible we could meet the power needs of several rather large cities.
  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Sunday September 16, 2007 @02:33PM (#20627317) Journal
    If they really want to help out with alternative energy usage there are a few things they can do easily:

    - Design the power supplies and charge controllers of laptops to accept reasonably "wild" voltages on the input jack, publish the specs and limits, and approve direct connection to panels or 12v renewable energy systems. Alternatively they could make available an INEXPENSIVE charging brick that accepts such voltages on its input.

    By 'reasonably "wild"' I mean the voltages that would appear off, say, a 12v panel (about 14.5v) or a 12V renewable-energy battery bank (about 13.5, up to 14.something during equalization). Disconnect at a minimum charge to protect batteries from undercharge would be a good idea, too. (Make it resistant to voltage spikes from switching of inductive loads and it could also be plugged directly into a cigarette lighter in a car as well.)

    Down-converter bricks for 24 and 48 volt systems would be good, too. Working through one step of conversion, rather than running the system's big (and thus lossy) inverter to get power up to 120VAC for a standard brick and then bringing it back down to what the laptop wants, would be a big win.

      - Improve power management (including clock-speed management, disk shutdown, and screen backlighting control) for lowered power consumption when not needed for heavy crunch or display. (For linux: Provide the hooks for the open software to do this.)
    • Disconnect at a minimum charge to protect batteries from undercharge would be a good idea, too.

      Meaning: Disconnect the laptop's load from the external power source if the voltage at the laptop power jack or renewable-energy-brick input is at a voltage indicating minimum acceptable charge level on an external battery - to protect the RE system's batteries from undercharge.
  • That was fast! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gandhi_2 (1108023)
    Generally, we have to wait YEARS after press release to get products! Any "no shit, there they were" already on sale at places like REI...two years ago. REI [rei.com] Brunton makes several kinds, you can even connect some types in series for more watts. I heard we can look forward to polio vaccinations sometime next year too!
  • See: here. [jsl.com]
  • This product isn't supposed to make your home PC green. It isn't being sold as a solution to global warming.

    It's a self contained power system for situations where you need to power equipment in the field for an extended period.

    I'd love to see civil emergency recovery teams outfitted with the components of an entire grid-independent information infrastructure. In the case of an earthquake or city-leveling hurricane, the teams would set up a parallel cell phone and data network. At first for emergency worker
  • This is a bad move. First, parent's basements do not have sunlight. Second, computer geeks tend to stay out of the sun. I'm sure they wouldn't have it if their computer (or some part of it) got more sunlight then they did!

    Only benefit I can see from this is environmentally friendly SPAM. Then, if we take out the Sun, no more SPAM!!
  • Hamburgers and French fries are feed into a human who then converts the biofuel into electricity by pulling on a string. OLPC will be powered by pulling a string: http://www.engadget.com/2006/07/24/olpc-will-be-powered-by-pulling-a-string/ [engadget.com]

How many hardware guys does it take to change a light bulb? "Well the diagnostics say it's fine buddy, so it's a software problem."

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