As Microsoft and Google learned with the failed Hohm and Powermeter electricity-monitoring tools, most people aren’t ready to spend time tracking their household energy consumption. Changers, a Berlin-based startup, is taking a different approach: allowing anyone who uses the company’s portable solar charger to measure energy produced and CO2 saved, share the information with friends, and even shop online with points generated from the charger’s solar power production. This is, according to Changers representative Hans Raffauf, the world’s first social energy marketplace.
Changers’ solar charger generates four watts of power each hour, and it can be used to charge up any USB-equipped device (i.e. cell phone, iPad, Kindle, etc.). A proprietary chip inside the device keeps track of solar power generated and CO2 saved (when compared to charging up on the grid). If users want to brag about their solar-generating skills, they can log onto the Changers> website, upload the information, and share their stats via any number of social networks.
The idea of sharing energy-saving information with friends has been around for years; plenty of smart plugs can do the same thing, as can smart meter-connected software. Where Changers really gets interesting is with its points system. After users upload their solar charging data to the website, they receive points that can be redeemed for products at HOLSTEE, a “lifestyle goods” marketplace. Changers is also working on partnerships with other retail websites, including one well-known crafts marketplace. “It’s the first currency backed by the sun,” says Raffauf.
At $149, the solar charger isn’t cheap, but Raffauf says prices will drop as the device goes into mass production. Eventually, Changers may license its chip for use in other energy-generating products, including larger solar panels and wind turbines. The Changers solar charger goes on sale in the U.S. next month.