Jay LeBoff was sick of being left incommunicado when the power went out in his neighborhood in Westchester County, N.Y. So he set out to build a backup power supply that relies on the sun.
At the Consumer Electronics Show, his company, NRG Dock, showed off solar chargers that are designed to run a range of electronics, including cell phones, Blackberrys, gaming machines, and music players. A high-end version will power laptops.
The products have a couple of pieces. In the Home version, there is a weatherproof battery and a solar panel that charges up and connects to a docking station inside. With a 15-watt panel and battery, it has enough juice to run a laptop for several hours, Allan Wattenmaker, the company's chief operating officer, said Tuesday at CES.
The Apartment version has a smaller panel that can be attached to a window with a suction cup. That charger is designed for smaller devices, like iPods and cell phones, rather than laptops, Wattenmaker said.
NRG Dock plans to release its first products in the second or third quarter of this year. The Home version will cost $800, and the Apartment version will cost $500. Both will benefit from federal and state tax rebates that could take 30 percent off the price, Wattenmaker said.
At CES, the company has been talking to potential global partners which could manufacture the product cheaper than the company's Connecticut facility, he said.
The panels are able to get charged not only from direct sunlight but from daylight as well. "I'm standing here in CES and I'm getting a charge from the lights in here," Wattenmaker said.
There are a number of solar chargers for electronic devices, but running a laptop directly from a solar panel is difficult and not as reliable as using a solar-charged battery, according to retailers.
Also at CES, Voltaic Systems announced that in the spring it will release a 14-watt solar bag for charging laptops.