Photo by Fotolia
The cost of solar has been dropping in recent years, which is a trend that’s likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Breakthroughs in solar technology have allowed for a drop in production costs. The price of hardware once controlled solar prices, but now most of the cost for consumers comes from “soft” costs, which include things like marketing, labor, permitting and inspection. Regulators are still working out the rules for solar, but once the industry is better established, prices will presumably drop even more. Solar now often beats out fossil fuels for cost-effectiveness. As a result, 2017 is shaping up to be a big year for the renewable energy source. In fact, this may be the year you’re actually able to afford some solar-powered gadgets.
1. Good Ol’ Solar Panels
Solar panels have gotten much more affordable in recent years. In 2015, the cost of residential rooftop systems fell by five percent, while prices fell a whopping 12 percent for large solar farms. A combination of market forces and government incentives has led to the fall in solar panel prices. The exact rebates offered and the cost of electricity vary by location, so using an online solar cost calculator can help determine what your exact costs would be. Solar panels have recently gotten more visually appealing as well, with Tesla’s unveiling of its camouflaged solar panels, which look just like regular roofing tiles.
2. Phone Chargers
Solar-powered phone chargers allow for charging on the go that’s also environmentally friendly. Solar cell phone charging technology is now very reasonably priced, as well. You can find chargers for anywhere between $10 and $80. The top pick from The Wirecutter, which tested over 70 portable solar chargers, can charge most cell phones at almost regular speed, and with less than a full day’s worth of sunshine. It’s also lightweight and costs only $50. Larger models are also available, which can charge things like laptops and televisions. For those looking for a sustainable portable charging solution, solar may be your best bet.
3. Outdoor Lighting
It’s now possible to use solar-powered outdoor lighting to enjoy the outdoors for a reasonable price. Outdoor landscape lighting, porch lights and other solar options are cost-effective, require no electricity and look nice, too. Many models can also be put on a timer or turn on automatically when it gets dark. They may not be as bright as electric lighting and may not last as long, especially if it’s a cloudy day, but solar is still a great lighting option for the outdoors. You can get a kit with multiple lighting fixtures for $60 and up, or individual fixtures from anywhere between $5 and $150.
4. Wireless Keyboards
With a solar-powered keyboard, you’ll never have to worry about changing the batteries in your wireless keyboard again. Logitech offers two models of solar keyboards: the K750 and the K760, for around $50 each. The keyboards charge with natural or artificial light and, according to Logitech, will hold a charge for three entire months even in complete darkness. The K750 even offers an app, which allows you to check the charge level of your keyboard. The fact that these keyboards hold a charge for so long means you really won’t ever to have worry about the battery life of your wireless keyboard again.
5. Solar-Powered Wi-Fi
Solar-powered Wi-Fi is providing free internet access to people around the world. A company called Soofa makes benches that feature a solar panel, which powers free Wi-Fi and phone charging capabilities. The benches have been installed in multiple cities in five countries. Gadgets such as solar-powered wireless repeaters can be bought online for a few hundred dollars. And with the introduction of solar-powered Wi-Fi, individuals and governments can lower their internet costs substantially.
The way we produce energy is changing thanks to market forces, consumer choices and government policies. Solar power is one of the sustainable energy sources that’s now becoming affordable for the average person. 2017 may be the year solar really gets to shine.