If you want to charge your phone directly from a solar panel, there’s one challenge: unlike solar panels connected to the grid, a small solar kit can only charge while it’s sunny. To charge at night or on cloudy days, you’ll need a portable battery as well.
The newest batteries, including two that were just released by the solar company Goal Zero, are designed to work anywhere; if you need to charge your phone in the middle of a rainstorm inside a national park, now you can.
“What we’re doing is marrying the sustainability side of solar with a power pack that you can use whenever you need the power,” says Jonathan Munk, vice president of marketing at Goal Zero. One of the new battery packs, the Venture 30, keeps working even if it’s left out in the rain or accidentally dropped in water. After a full charge on a solar panel, the device can charge a smartphone three times, a camera five times, or boost a tablet’s power by half.
In part, the company is catering to the fact that most people are so addicted to their gadgets that they can’t stay away from them, even when they’re theoretically on a retreat in nature. “People just can’t live without their technology,” says Lee Fromson, president of the company. “If you’re driving to work and you’ve forgotten your wallet or glasses, you’d keep coming in, but if you forgot your phone, you’d turn around and go home to get it.”
Of course, the batteries can also be used to charge gadgets for safety–like GPS, a flashlight, or a medical device–and not just devices you might use for entertainment. The portable design also makes it easy to use them in regular life, at the office or airport, without having to plug into the grid.
The company also brings its technology to communities around the world that live completely without electricity. “Our mission is to put reliable power in the hands of every human being on the planet,” Munk says. “That means we design our product to live anywhere, and we would love to get this in the hands of people who have no access to reliable power.”
Most recently, Goal Zero worked on a project in Navajo Nation in Monument Valley, Utah, where 18,000 homes are off the grid. “We’re able to go in and give people solar systems and battery systems that will allow them to just have the basics–light, and a little bit of power to charge portable devices and some small electronics.”