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Dell, Lenovo Adding Solar Option for PCs

CmdrTaco posted more than 7 years ago | from the well-not-exactly dept.

Power 184

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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All right! (5, Funny)

iknowcss (937215) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626157)

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.

Re:All right! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20626395)

Cheap shot on Islamic Extremists: (-1, Troll)
Cheap shot on Christian Extremists: (+5, Insightful)

Most of us never have to deal with Muslim extremists (and likely never will). However, most of us have dealt with Christian extremists.

Re:All right! (-1, Offtopic)

drsquare (530038) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626625)

People who use London public transport have to live in fear of Muslim extremism every day.

Re:All right! (1, Offtopic)

bjorniac (836863) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626679)

No, we really don't. Maybe you do, but I'm not afraid - there's a far greater chance of being knocked down in the street. Do you live in fear of that every day?

Re:All right! (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20626769)

No. Most people are in fear of having their iPod nicked, and getting a kick in the face from some wanker who has placed in trousers round his ankles.

Re:All right! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20626677)

Is there a way to attach a +1 funny to the moderator who modded this as insightful, thus proving the whole cheap shot theory.

Re:All right! (-1, Troll)

g0dsp33d (849253) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626713)

Actually we all have through 9-11 (it affects you financially even if it doesn't personally). And if you think Christian extremists are worse, I'm guessing its only because there is probably not very many Islamic extremists in your neighborhood. Its kinda the same thing as risk... likelihood x cost of occurrence.

Plus I think most Christians and most Islamic people would take offense to either term being tied in with extremism. Extreme religion should be correctly called piety, not terrorism.

While we're off-topic... (1, Offtopic)

Txiasaeia (581598) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626787)

"Extreme religion should be correctly called piety, not terrorism."

Piety is reverence towards one's God. The word you're looking for is "religious extremism."

Re:All right! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20626557)

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.
Just buy some more light bulbs and mount them over the solar cells. Incandescent bulbs tend to work the best in my opinion. And if it gets too warm then you should turn on your AC.

Re:All right! (3, Insightful)

g0dsp33d (849253) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626757)

Just wait until you hear about my solution for server rooms...


Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20626175)

They fucking died for your sins, B1TCH!


mstahl (701501) | more than 7 years ago | (#20627067)

Best AC comment EVER. Way to go as far off-topic as humanly possible (without, of course, meta-commenting on the hilarity of an AC comment).


Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20627567)

Ace of Bass?!! HAHAHA!!

That is seriously funny as hell.

I can't wait... (4, Funny)

Donniedarkness (895066) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626177) get solar power for my laptop!

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

Wait for what? (4, Informative)

DaleGlass (1068434) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626365)

Solar laptop solutions are sold by many companies already. You can get it as a foldable panel, panels on laptop bags, panels that can be glued to the back of the screen (probably suboptimal), and even a solar jacket []

They're available in all sorts, from cheap ones that can only slowly charge the battery (though they seem to be able to provide part of the required power while the laptop is on, extending the battery's life), to more expensive ones that produce enough power to keep the laptop on, assuming favorable light levels of course.

Re:Wait for what? (3, Informative)

CaptnMArk (9003) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626429)

Unfortunately most laptop screens dont view at all well in sunlight.

Re:Wait for what? (5, Funny)

g0dsp33d (849253) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626777)

Neither do most slashdotters :-p. Sorry Mods, couldn't resist.

Shade. (4, Funny)

statemachine (840641) | more than 7 years ago | (#20627705)

Use the solar panel for shade. Problem solved.

Re:Wait for what? (1)

mikael (484) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626529)

What we really need is some kind of helmet with solar panels on each side, and on the top. That way, it can collect all that wasted light emitted by the laptop screen, provide shade to keep the laptop cool, and keep the glare off the screen, all at the same time.

Batteries Included (4, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626185)

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.

Re:Batteries Included (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626387)

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 battery standardization. I never understood why the world needs 900 types of watch battery, many of which can't even be distinguished visually.

Re:Batteries Included (3, Informative)

NeilTheStupidHead (963719) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626743)

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 [] battery, there are dozens of manufacturer or retailer part numbers. The IEC [] 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.

Re:Batteries Included (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20626461)

Solar stuff costs too much, and the price of high-power (relatively speaking) isn't going to be affordable anytime soon. Solar panels for houses still cost an arm and a leg, after MANY years of use, and solar kits for RVs are way overpriced as well... Price is going down, but very slowly. Those things take easily take 10 years or more to pay for themselves here, if they ever do.

Yep. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20626215)

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. (1)

Leftist Troll (825839) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626291)

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.

Right, because the small niche of people who will actually buy this is so going to put a significant dent in the amount of fossil fuel we burn.

Re:Yep. (1)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 7 years ago | (#20627405)

Pretending for the moment that you aren't trolling, do you somehow expect to roll out a solution to this problem that everyone will uptake overnight?

Re:Yep. (1)

Leftist Troll (825839) | more than 7 years ago | (#20627641)

I'm not saying that there is an easy answer, just that the idea that the market will work everything out on its own is pure fantasy.

Re:Yep. (4, Insightful)

toppavak (943659) | more than 7 years ago | (#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! (4, Insightful)

Conspicuous Coward (938979) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:Yep. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20627281)


You first. I don't mean whining at other people.

Re:Yep. (1)

An Onerous Coward (222037) | more than 7 years ago | (#20627673)

I don't see how all that "concern for the future" talk is going to help me afford mah Hummer.

What is that i hear? (4, Funny)

weirdcrashingnoises (1151951) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626219)

Hopefully the technology will get smaller and more affordable.

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

Re:What is that i hear? (2, Interesting)

InvalidError (771317) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626775)

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 outside usable illumination hours, the battery needs to store about 1kWh. At this point, you have to take your pick between an inexpensive 40kg set of SLA batteries, a more expensive 30kg NiMH set or a very expensive and potentially spontaneously-combusting 20kg lithium-polymer one.

The weight is a function of battery technology, the size is a function of solar panel efficiency. All are improving in many ways but these technological advancements are incremental, slow and expensive. For the time being, I would settle for replacing the 7.2Ah batteries in my BX1000 UPS by external 100Ah ones (~2kWh reserve), strapping an alternator to a stationary exercise bicycle and pedal for a while every couple of hours... much less expensive, more portable (try packing and re-deploying a 1kW array) and available nearly whenever/wherever I am.

Because the cost per watt of solar energy is currently pretty high, solar makes little sense as anything other than a statement. When solar panels will be available under $100/kW in the ~20% efficient grades, solar will become much more interesting - at least for people who live close enough to the equator to be spared crazy frosty winter ice storms.

Re:What is that i hear? (1)

weirdcrashingnoises (1151951) | more than 7 years ago | (#20627607)

heh, thats quite the lengthy and technical reply to a post that was really just for maybe a chuckle...

really why i posted it tho was because that statement can pretty much be applied to nearly every computer-related technology that has ever existed... any computer/pda/cellphone... the list goes on, it just seemed like such and obvious thing to say.

but thanks for the reply, it was informative :-)

How many trees... (4, Insightful)

Tx (96709) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626237)

...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?"

Re:How many trees... (5, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#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!

trees and solar (3, Insightful)

zogger (617870) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626567), 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 coupla decades into the future. I have a home made version of what is in the article (single good sized panel, charge controller, storage battery on a handtruck so it was movable, tied in with a long heavy gauge extension I made from scrap welding cables, and those went to more storage batts) and ran my old computer (a laptop, but it is what I had then) from it for years.

I am extreme pro environment, and I walk the talk and slap my wallet where my mouth is and have for a long time now, but I warn folks, watch for the conjobs from the globalist green movement. Parts of it are righteous, parts of it are pure con, it isn't all one or the other. We can do much better with energy conservation in our buildings and vehicles and gadgets (dropping our demand while still enjoying technology), and we certainly can produce a lot more green power now that economies of scale are seriously ramping up with solar and wind and geothermal and hydro, and because we can see how destructive a lot of "conventional" power is, but beware all the "new carbon taxes" and "carbon trading" and suchlike, they are designed to separate you from your cash and add another burdensome layer of onerous power tripping laws over you and add in even more disgusting middleman "traders" to skim off working guys wealth. So go green, but do it because you like it and we need it as a planet and it works and makes sense and cent$, not because they force you to swallow some serious propaganda and BS.

Re:trees and solar (3, Insightful)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

It has it's uses (1)

Rix (54095) | more than 7 years ago | (#20627007)

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.

check your maps for a better idea... (5, Interesting)

zogger (617870) | more than 7 years ago | (#20627459)

...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 []

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.

You're misinformed (0, Flamebait)

Rix (54095) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626959)

The purpose of carbon trading is to internalize the cost of polluting. Just as you have to pay the man to take out your trash, you should have to pay for the carbon you emit.

nope (2, Interesting)

zogger (617870) | more than 7 years ago | (#20627601)

Screw that, it isn't their carbon to tax me on it *again* and I've already pointed out that tree planting is just a way to "feel good" about your pollution, trees are self planting all over the planet, lining up some sort of figures is usless except for those who want more political power over other people or want their money and usually it is both. Really, I am not exaggerating, we have _thousands_ of new baby trees a year sprout up here, will someone give me a wad of cash for that? How about you, where's my check, we "offset" quite a bit of carbon just by letting the woods grow here. Oh,no check? Why not then? Carbon credits and taxes are an authoritarian and globalist greedpig economic and power trip scam. It's the new enron styled invent crap out of thin air trading BS that they slap warm and fuzzy green paint on it so the mouth breather rubes don't notice they are being fleeced and exploited some more. Sure, you can go on purpose plant trees all over, that doesn't mean that a huge number more wild ones don't sprout up every year with not much more than wind and animals moving the seeds around. It's urban "feel good" crap. Makes about as much sense as those weather trading futures they tried, just more scam products from the same accounting school of thought as where the MAFIAA or the DEA pull numbers on what stuff is worth.

Now don't get me wrong, I am a huge proponent of "going green", living with a light footprint, being responsible, not dicking over the environment, etc, and have been my entire life, but I've just been in this to long to not notice the cons that can get associated with it, and "carbon credits" and "carbon trading" are at the very top of the list.

Settle down (1)

Rix (54095) | more than 7 years ago | (#20627995)

This has absolutely nothing to do with trees. I agree that the various carbon credit schemes in place now are nonsense. You shouldn't get them for "research" or "funding". They should be available *only* by directly and measurably reducing carbon output. For example, if a coal burning power plant builds a carbon sequestering system, they should be able to sell credit for that reduction in emissions on the open market. The next plant, which fails to do so, should be required to buy them for their emissions.

Re:How many trees... (2, Insightful)

2short (466733) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626601)

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 squat for me.

Re:How many trees... (1)

KeepQuiet (992584) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626613)

I don't agree. It is a start. I am sure when hybrid cars were first manufactured, they cost a lot of money, but in the end, now we have hybrid cars everywhere. Who knows, maybe in 10 years everything will be running on solar panels.

Re:How many trees... (2, Insightful)

ceejayoz (567949) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626681)

Most things are clunky, rickety, and expensive when first invented. There has to be a starting point.

Trees clean up exactly? (3, Insightful)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:Trees clean up exactly? (1)

adolf (21054) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626907)

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:How many trees... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20626851)

Not to pick on you specifically, but this is something that many slashdotter just don't understand.

Time and again someone gets mod'd up who basically says solar "almost" makes sense, because it's "almost" as cheap as from the grid, and if it were a little cheaper, you'd have mass adoption.

That's not the point! The point of solar isn't to be cheaper than the grid! It's to be better. For the world.

Imagine if someone said "The maintenance price of local, empowered women is ALMOST cheap enough to where I can stop frequenting prostitutes on my trips to Southeast Asia." That's not the point! The whole POINT is that the "cost" of frequenting prostitutes on your trips to Southeast Asia isn't reflected in the price. When you buy a plane ticket, you don't also thereby purchase therapists for the prostitutes whose lives you're ruining there, or make up (with medical coverage) for the STD pandemic you're helping to cause by entering the market for prostitutes there. If prostitution leads the women involved to up and die, be beaten by their johns and tricks, etc, etc, you're not paying for ANY of that, even though you're CAUSING IT. They're just not in the market price.

Pollution is the same way. If someone says:
      "I can give you midday electricity for five cents" (per whatever)
and you're like
      "Yeah, I have to go with that, because getting it solar, locally, would cost me seven cents" (per same unit)

It means you're NOT an environmentalists. You don't care if the power plant giving you that midday electricity is smoking the shit out of the planet, because you're not paying for it to get cleaned up. (No one is). It's NOT IN THE PRICE.

So what do you do? Well, first, you cut down on your use of whatever you think is bad. One way to do this is to multiply it by an evil factor, say, five, before comparing it to the alternatives.

So suddenly your $700 for an off-season last-minute deal on a week's stay in Southeast Asia, including however much you always end up paying the prostitutes, instead you pretend will cost $3500 when you compare it with just biting the bullet and getting a girl.

It takes the evil factor into effect.

Basically, the reason to STOP RAPING THE PLANET isn't to be cheap! It's to be Good.

The reason to start using a bicycle for your short trips isn't because of dollars per mile, okay?

Especially when you factor your time (the hourly wage you command) into consideration.

This bears repeating:

The reason to use a bike on short trips instead of driving isn't because of cents per mile.

It's because each mile on a bike has NO carbon emissions (and obviously, manufacturing the bike had produced less than manufacturing the car had).

Even if it ends up (for whatever reason) costing more per mile!!

You don't have to wait till it's cheaper to ride a bike than to use a car for 2-minute drives. Just multiply the per-mile costs by the evil factor. That's it.

Hope this helps.

Re:How many trees... (4, Funny)

Antony.Muss (1152597) | more than 7 years ago | (#20627115)

When you buy a plane ticket, you don't also thereby purchase therapists for the prostitutes whose lives you're ruining there, or make up (with medical coverage) for the STD pandemic you're helping to cause by entering the market for prostitutes there. If prostitution leads the women involved to up and die, be beaten by their johns and tricks, etc, etc, you're not paying for ANY of that, even though you're CAUSING IT.
I am a courteous John who never hurts his prostitute. I'm improving her live by outcompeting abusive Johns, like a bacterium that outcompetes penicillin-resistent bacteria, which incidentally she has.

Re:How many trees... (1)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626883)

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 for the computer hardware manufacturers. It's a problem for organizations like EPA, EPEAT. They set the rules, and manufacturers follow them.

In this case, Lenovo/Dell followed the rules and did their part. If you believe it's stupid, rant on EPA/EPEAT.

Indirect research grant (1)

Rix (54095) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626917)

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.

Re:How many trees... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20627399)

And what happens when those trees are later chopped down for wood for someone's fireplace? Using a solar powered source prevents pollution, tree planting makes up for it to some extent, sometimes temporarily.

I'll jump in the prevention is better than a cure camp ty :)

Re:How many trees... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20627945)

It's not only the "every little bit" part. It's also supporting a technology that still requires a lot of research to improve efficiency, lifespan and reduce pollution caused by their production. The funding for that research will only come if the people with the money see that there is a market for this stuff, which in turn makes investing in research profitable.

Just imagine a house running totally self sufficient, without any power lines leading to fuel burning power plants or nuclear plants, a house that is not affected by city wide brown-outs etc. No energy bills, simply the sun doing what it's doing best - supplying us with energy..

And so begins the rush.... (2, Interesting)

downix (84795) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626267)

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**

Re:And so begins the rush.... (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626417)

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.

Re:And so begins the rush.... (1)

goldentrout25 (954162) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626759)

The sun basks the earth in 250,000 TW of power.
The global burn rate is somewhere between 20-40 TW currently.
So Extracting 20-40 TW from 250,000 TW comes to 0.008 - 0.016 % of the total solar power flux.

Yup, the cooling is going to be drastic.


Re:And so begins the rush.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20627529)

I assume GP was a joke, which you missed, but your analysis is seriously flawed. All energy collected from the sun will eventually become heat (minus the miniscule amounts that will escape into space), so there is no heat lost. Thermodynamics, bitch.

Interesting point but... (1)

Junta (36770) | more than 7 years ago | (#20627857)

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 transfer that energy..

Once again copying Apple (4, Interesting)

Twid (67847) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626273)

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

Pics here [] .

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 (2, Interesting)

empaler (130732) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626659)

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

Pics here [] .

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 market. I can also market completely half-assed stuff, but then my company would also die and leave my domain for the sharks [] .

Re:Allright, I'll bite (1)

Twid (67847) | more than 7 years ago | (#20627095)

Hello Mr. Literal, I was joking! ===> smiley ===

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

Re:Once again copying Apple (1)

traveller604 (961720) | more than 7 years ago | (#20627015)

Nokia [] made it far better. I wonder why they discontinued this.. I used to have one. It was great!

8th bitches (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20626275)

fuck yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhh hoesssssssssssssss. ya'll buncha lepers. gg.

Nothing to see here (1)

WiiVault (1039946) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626355)

Its funny that anytime a corp. does something cool like this its always motivated by some outside mandate. I suspect little work will be done to make these more accessable to the average joe now that they have what they want

Re:Nothing to see here (1)

DrSkwid (118965) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626451)

I had a Sony Solar Walkman in 1985.

Bah (5, Funny)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626359)

just let me know when they provide a nuclear option

Re:Bah (1)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626753)

just let me know when they provide a nuclear option
My computer is nuclear powered. The plant in question supplies about 20% of Sweden's electricity.

Re:Bah (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 7 years ago | (#20627663)

"just let me know when they provide a nuclear option"

If you just need the explosive power, Sony's current batteries have that covered pretty well.

Or build your own for $1000 less (5, Informative)

Plocmstart (718110) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626383)

Build your own for around $300: []
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.

Re:Or build your own for $1000 less (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626537)

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:Or build your own for $1000 less (1)

Plocmstart (718110) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626749)

I agree it could be done for less than $300. Find a solar panel for less than $175 on ebay or something, and you don't really need the charger component if you build your own charger circuit. It's also fairly easily expandable. If you want something better that produces 120VAC you'll want to skip the cheap inverters though since they don't output a sine wave which introduces additional high-frequency noise into your power supplies (some won't care, some may over time). I've also considered modifying a Liebert 3kVA UPS which outputs a true sine wave to use as my inverter (you can find these used for ~$100 on ebay on a good day). Note you must REALLY know what you are doing to do this safely since you are dealing with more than enough power to kill yourself.

Re:Or build your own for $1000 less (2, Insightful)

Otter (3800) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626763)

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.

You're underestimating the size of the solar panel (2, Informative)

stefanlasiewski (63134) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626863)

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 [] or Mr. Solar [] .

For $1500, you could by a decent laptop for $1000, and then assemble your fun $300 solar/battery kit.

But... (2, Funny)

Epsillon (608775) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626403)

...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...

Re:But... (4, Funny)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626673)

...will it run Solaris?

Yes, but it doesn't support Eclipse.

Chris Mattern

Re:But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20627077)

Sure it does, just less usable output when you have a Corona...

cool - gimme an external solar panel for a laptop (1)

fadilnet (1124231) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626435)

Cool! I want an external small solar panel for my laptop. Since I travel a lot and charging sucks, a small solar panel for laptops would be nice. Or better - make the entire laptop casing made of photovoltaic cells. Added to that, I look forward to see pizoelectric crystals being implemented as well.

Is it possible to be green and stupid? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:Is it possible to be green and stupid? (1)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 7 years ago | (#20627769)

True that, home slice. Thanks to the laws of thermodynamics, all heat removed from your home must be accounted for in the transfer to an outside area. Since air is a good insulator, it is a terrible conductor -> We waste enormous amounts of energy trying to exchange heat with the outside air. GSHP are much more efficient. Saving possible (according to the Canadian dept of energy) with GSHP by far exceed a little solar offset.

What about a hand crank? (1)

origamy (807009) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626463)

It's fairly "green" and it's usually "grain" powered (rice, wheat, beans).

The OLPC has it, or sorta does...

Awesome for 3rd world countries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20626481)

The cost of electricity here is so cheap that it would take years to pay this off. However, in countries where there is no infrastructure this is better than a hand crank.

Hand Crank (1)

bobbuck (675253) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626497)

Wouldn't it be easier to make a freaking hand crank powered laptop?

But you'd need an extra hand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20627297)

Yeah, but nobody has three hands. I mean you got one hand for the keyboard or the touchpad and the other one for... Well this just won't work.

Unless you have a girlfriend, but that'd be stretching the odds a bit too much wouldn't it?

Doesn't help.. need an "inside-out" online UPS (1)

originalhack (142366) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626511)

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 that the output can run from DC for periods of time before automatically returning to bypass while the batteries catch up.

Then, I can run my loads from a UPS that can consume all of the solar I generate without forgetting to fall-back to commercial power when needed.

Re:Doesn't help.. need an "inside-out" online UPS (1)

DaleGlass (1068434) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626729)

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 know for a fact because we used some from our store to rehabilitate some UPSes including a pretty big 1400VA APC one) costs about $15. It has somewhat lower capacity (I think I replaced a 9000 AH with a 7000AH one), but at that price, if you have an UPS that can handle an arbitrary number of additional batteries (some APC ones do) you could store a lot of power quite cheaply.

Re:Doesn't help.. need an "inside-out" online UPS (2, Informative)

Technician (215283) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626821)

What you are looking for is here; []

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 doesn't pick up the electric water heater, electric stove, electric dryer, etc. It just isn't big enough yet.

He sized the system to never have a surplus. The idea of buying power retail and paying for a bi-directional installation (cogen) and selling at wholesale rates didn't make any sense.

Why would you want to do that? (1)

Rix (54095) | more than 7 years ago | (#20627445)

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.

What i would like to see is Bike powered setups (2, Interesting)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626525)

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).

Division of labour (2, Interesting)

gigantu' (1156191) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626605)

Didn't Dell and Lenovo hear about division of labour [] ? I'm sure that if I need solar power I can get a better, cheaper and more flexible solution from a company specialized in solar power generation. Maybe some exec got confused over the "power supply" term.

Low power consumption is a more worthwhile goal. (2, Insightful)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626745)

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.

Re:Low power consumption is a more worthwhile goal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20626953)

Most people just browsing the web & word processing could make do with one of these - 10W inc. screen ! []

Shame they don't seem to have updated the site in a while.

Re:Low power consumption is a more worthwhile goal (1)

GIL_Dude (850471) | more than 7 years ago | (#20627205)

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.

If only... (1)

FinchWorld (845331) | more than 7 years ago | (#20626819)

...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.

There are a couple things they could do easily. (2, Insightful)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 7 years ago | (#20627317)

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.)

Re:There are a couple things they could do easily. (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 7 years ago | (#20627349)

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.

Every computer is now has solar option (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#20627425)


The ACME Computer Industry Consortium (ACMECIS) has just released the ACME SP5000, a solar-powered add-on that works with virtually any computer. It sports 240V and 120V AC and an assortment of DC power outputs and is able to deliver up to 1500 watts of power.

While billed as portable, this is in name only. The solar panels alone weigh 1500kg. and come installed on you choice of: Several push carts, several electric golf carts, or the roof of a bio-diesel-powered bus. A panel-only option is available for customers intending to install it on their own vehicles or affix them permanently to structures.

When asked why they are doing this now instead of waiting for technology to improve, an ACMECIS spokesman said "A few of our environmentally-conscious customers asked for a solar-powered option. We care about the environment."

That was fast! (2, Interesting)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 7 years ago | (#20627647)

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 [] 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!
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