Canadian Manufacturing

Portable solar unit provides power on-the-go

Unit produces between 180 and 200 watts of solar power and can store up to 500 watt hours of power

SIOUX FALLS, S.D.—Solar power has become portable thanks to Peppermint Energy, a small energy start-up in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Last month the firm launched Forty2, a product it describes as a “utility in a box” because it generates and stores solar power, and is easy to transport. The product’s name was inspired by Douglas Adams’ novel, The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. A computer named Deep Thought provides 42 as “the answer to life, the universe and everything.”

“It integrates the source with a battery [and] with an outlet, it’s an all-in-one solution,” says Daren Davoux, director of engineering.

It measures two-by-three feet, and is powerful enough to run electronics like high-definition televisions, laptops and a small fridges. Davoux says it is light enough to be carried around by a 12-year-old.

Forty2 can produce between 180 and 200 watts of solar power and can store up to 500 watt hours of power on a lithium ion battery. There are three A/C units built into the device.

On August 15, Peppermint Energy launched Forty2 on Kickstarter a Web site where entrepreneurs can seek funding to develop new products. The company aimed to raise US$25,000 by September 12 to manufacture 250 units. It was a success—the firm raised US$83,286. Contributors will receive a first-run Forty2 or one of the company’s other products—a portable solar power charger for a mobile device, or a solar power backpack that allows for the charging of mobile devices on-the-go. The company anticipates first-run units will be ready for delivery by December.

Brian Gramm, president and CEO of Peppermint Energy says one of the ideas behind Forty2 is to provide power to people worldwide who live off-the-grid.

“There are about three billion people that do not have access to reliable power,” says Gramm, noting about half of those individuals don’t have access to anything. “There’s just no power whatsoever anywhere near them.”

Forty2 recently caught the attention of the Connecticut-based utility, Soluxe Solar, which on Tuesday presented the company with its Solar Flare award—the company hands out this award weekly to innovative sustainable energy projects.

“Most solar development is happening on grid,” said Jeffrey Mayer, Soluxe’s president. “With Forty2, Peppermint Energy takes the benefits of power off grid, potentially bringing power to a billion people who now live far from utility grids. When you think of all the children who can now study at night and the small businesses that will be able to access information and markets by computer, you can imagine how Peppermint could transform lives.”

The company is marketing the device in the U.S. as an ideal source of back-up power, and says it’s ideal to bring camping, and to tailgate parties.

“Small really is beautiful,” says Jeffrey Mayer. “At a time when utility-scale power projects have reduced our dependence on carbon-based fuels, this company is creating small-scale applications that will make a difference in people’s lives.”

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