This project's funding goal was not reached on January 10, 2014.
About this project
The Company, the Challenge & the Solution
The Company and Our Mission
Giga Solar FPC, Inc. was founded with the belief that our sun can and should provide electrical energy to anyone, anywhere and at anytime. We thought that a good place to start was in powering our mobile electronic devices. Mobile phones and tablet computers need to be recharged constantly. Globally, the annual charging of mobile devices consumes enough energy to power 1.5 million U.S. homes for a year! SolarGami® is designed for people who believe, like us, that a reduced reliance on fossil fuels is good for our planet and our future.
Nearly everyone loves solar energy for its clean and renewable nature. However, the small amount of energy in a square foot of sunlight combined with the best commercial solar cells provides only a small amount of total electricity. Additionally, the sun's intensity depends on where you are, the time of day and year, and it can be highly variable due to local cloud cover. These characteristics make it challenging to design a practical solar charging product for everyday use.
Many of today's "portable" solar charging products simply don't work. They:
- Lack power - resulting in slow or zero charging
- Are large and/or heavy - making portability a problem
- Have insufficient battery storage - creating a need to find a wall plug
- Are not consumer friendly
SolarGami ("Solar + Origami"), as the name implies, uses a simple and elegant folding design to change its shape. This allows SolarGami to be small and lightweight for carrying, but to fold out into a large-area solar array that generates 25 watts of electricity at peak sun conditions. SolarGami is "locked" into position with the aid of high-strength neodymium magnets and a compression screw-in knob in the center. When fully deployed SolarGami can be placed on any surface, propped against a wall, attached to a carabiner, or mounted to any standard tripod for easy pointing towards the sun for maximum power generation. Because "power" is equivalent to the "speed of charge", we designed SolarGami to provide your "solar juice" at the same speed as your wall plug!
Removable, High Capacity Battery
Anywhere, Anytime Charging
Because access to a good sunny day can be difficult, and because you don't always want to carry the full SolarGami system around, we felt that removable battery storage was critical. So, in addition to lots of solar power, SolarGami comes with considerable energy storage. SolarGami's battery stores 46Wh (12,600mAh) of energy and can be charged in a couple of hours in direct sun. When this 46Wh SolarGami battery is fully charged, it can recharge your phone between 4 and 7 times, depending on your phone. Or, it can fully recharge your tablet's battery, giving you another 10+ hours of use.
Product Options - More Battery Storage
For those that need even more storage, a 92Wh (25,200 mAh) battery option is available, providing 2x the energy storage of our standard battery. This amazing level of battery storage can provide charging energy for numerous devices over many days. Whether you chose the 46Wh or the optional 92Wh battery, both solutions are fully integrated into the SolarGami module. The battery and power management electronics are enclosed in a pack that is easily attached to, and removed from, the SolarGami. Regardless of your choice, both batteries provide 4 standard USB ports for multiple device charging, along with an "emergency" AC plug for that intermittent need for wall charging.
Ways to Use Your SolarGami
SolarGami was designed to be portable so that you could take your solar power with you wherever you go, and especially when you're off-grid:
- At the Beach
- At an Outdoor Concert or Sporting Event
- Skiing, Snowboarding or Surfing
or simply when you have lost power from your utility.
There are many days throughout the year when you are on-grid and you don't want to carry the full SolarGami charging system. To maintain your green life-style you can use SolarGami as your surrogate wall plug for charging your mobile devices. Find a sunny spot in a protected area where you live. Point your SolarGami in the direction where it will get the most sun during the day and go about your business. On sunny days you will quickly charge your SolarGami battery. On cloudy days it will take longer, but if your SolarGami is outside all day then you will, over time, fully charge the battery. When people are at home, bring your charged battery inside and use it anywhere you are in the house. Use it at night instead of electricity from the grid. Multiple USBs provide a centralized charging area. No more hunting or fighting for plugs. And when you're headed out, whether you're headed to school or taking a business trip, you can continue to charge your phone or tablet with clean, solar power.
Reducing our Carbon Footprint
Turning Waste into Watts
Over 30 billion PET bottles a year are polluting our lands and oceans. We found a way to use post-consumer recycled PET in a critical part of our solar module. SolarGami uses a super-lightweight composite instead of traditional heavy glass. This composite is stiff and rugged, resistant to high temperatures, long-lasting in the outdoors, and inexpensive. By using recycled PET, we are both cleaning our planet and producing clean energy at the same time - we are turning "Waste into Watts". We think this is pretty neat!
Turning Small into Big - Solar + Origami
Challenged by the need for our solar modules to have a large surface area (to generate high power) but be small enough to be portable, we developed a unique folding system. We built and tested many concepts over the last year. SolarGami today is based on a folding of the four panels into one through the use of flexible hinges which are built into our frame. Watch our 3D video below, illustrating this simple but elegant folding action!
SolarGami's Unique Folding System
How Did We Come Up with SolarGami?
Brainstorming - January 2013
Building and Playing with Prototypes - March to August
Testing Our Solar Panels - May to September
Completing the Details and Protecting Our Invention - August to November
Getting to the Finish Line
Now, we are finally ready to put SolarGami into manufacturing scale-up. However, there remain two items that have significant cost associated with them. The first is the tooling cost for our injection molding. Remember the frames, knobs, etc. described above? There are 10 molded parts for each SolarGami. The second cost area involves the power and battery management electronics. We need to finalize the selection of components and layout, create schematics and build fully-functional printed circuit boards that can meet our performance specifications. These two items will cost more than $100,000 and take over 6 months to complete.
- High efficiency crystalline silicon solar cells
- 25 watts (peak) of electrical production
- Lightweight at 3.5 to 4.2 lbs (depending on battery choice)
- Rugged plastic composite construction
- Small - 8" x 11" and 1 1/2" thick (when folded)
- Large energy storage - 46Wh or 92Wh battery
- Convenient for multiple users with 4 Standard USB ports
- Easily mounted to most tripods
- Ecological - recycled PET and recyclable at end of life
- Fast battery charging from the sun
- Fast device charging from the battery
- Easy-to-attach-and-remove battery from the solar panels
- Multiple and simultaneous charging of devices (note: depending on the level of battery charge)
- Easy to transport due to small form factor and low weight
- Ability to aim (with tripod) directly at, and to follow, the sun to increase output by >30% over fixed panels
Product Specifications (Preliminary)
Solar Array Power: 25 watts (nominal at standard test conditions)
SolarGami Size and Weight (without battery)
Folded: 1.5" x 8" x 11" (38mm x 203mm x 280mm)
Unfolded: 0.4" x 16" x 22.25" (11mm x 407mm x 566mm)
Weight: 2.7 lbs (1.2 kg)
Battery Pack Size and Weight
Size: 0.6" x 6.3" x 8.8" (15mm x 160mm x 223mm)
Weight (46Wh): 1 lb (0.43 kg)
Weight (92Wh): 1.5 lbs (0.67 kg)
Connection: 4 standard USB ports; rated at 2.5 amps each
Battery charging port: Barrel vault plug
Thanks to everyone who has helped us get to this point, including: Judy, Claire, Anna, Nate, Zack, Elisa, Kavan, Lenny, Artie, Buddy, and Summer.
Special Thanks to Max Fancher and his team at Maximizevideo Productions.
Risks and challenges
Although obstacles remain in the successful ramp to full manufacturing, we believe that these are engineering challenges, not scientific. That means we are highly confident of all of the pieces of SolarGami working - the solar panel, the battery, and the electronics. Finding the right technical resources and vendors will be our main focus in the months ahead.
Specifically some of the risk areas remaining include:
1. Yielding high quality and close tolerance injection molded parts that enclose our modules and allows them to fold and unfold as designed
2. Meeting cost targets
3. Building out a robust supply chain, meaning reliable vendors, high quality parts, good workmanship and lowest possible costs
4. Meeting order fulfillment
The Giga Solar Team has substantial experience in the manufacturing and supply of products produced both in the U.S. and abroad, as well as, direct selling in over 30 countries. We believe that this experience allows us to properly plan and execute on the business plan and scale-up. However, any new venture and product face unforeseen challenges, and we are likely to encounter these as well. With your help we are optimistic that our experience commitment and passion will give us the ability to succeed in bringing SolarGami to the world.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
No, SolarGami will convert sunlight to electricity even on cloudy days. However, it is important to remember that SolarGami’s output (or power) is directly proportional to the amount of solar energy incident on the solar cells, and clouds can reduce this by more than 50%. Here are two examples:
Example A: A clear, sunny summer day at noon might produce 90 watts per square foot (or more) depending on where you live. SolarGami uses solar cells that convert ~20% of the sun’s energy to electricity, and when folded out has ~1.5 square feet of solar cell area. Therefore, the power output of SolarGami is determined by multiplying these three numbers together:
90 x 1.5 x 0.2 = ~ 27W (watts) of electrical power
Example B: An overcast, cloudy winter day at noon might produce 30 watts per square foot (or less) depending on where you live. The power output of SolarGami is determined by multiplying these three numbers together:
30 x 1.5 x 0.2 = ~ 9W of electrical power
The actual amount will depend on many factors, including the time of day, the month, your location, the orientation of the module to the sun, and the amount of cloud cover.
Our standard battery is currently designed to have a 46Wh capacity. Based on the two examples above, it would take approximately:
Example A: 46 ÷ 27 = ~ 1.7 hours
Example B: 46 ÷ 9 = ~ 5 hours
No, but you’ll get the best performance, especially if you adjust the SolarGami during the day. “Tracking the sun” allows you to generate as much as 30% more energy. However for most of us, it is not practical to constantly adjust our SolarGami throughout the day, so the best approach is to find a southern or western exposure and to align your SolarGami in that direction. To further improve the performance you should place your Solargami at an angle to intercept the most sunlight. In the southern lower 48 states this would be approximately 30° from the horizontal and in the most northern states as high as 45-50°. Find out what latitude you’re at and use that as a guide.
No, you can use any tripod that has a standard ¼ - 20 thread attachment bolt. The SolarGami tripod is, however, lightweight, durable and very adaptable to mounting on both flat surfaces and other structures, such as poles.
Please send your old battery pack to Giga Solar. We will give you a credit against the cost of a new, replacement battery pack. This will ensure that all of the plastic, electronic and battery materials are properly recycled, reused and/or disposed of in the most environmentally sensitive way. The amount of this credit will be determined prior to our shipping the first product.
SolarGami comes with a 1-year warranty against workmanship defects. If you are not happy with your SolarGami within the first 60 days after receipt, you can return it for a 100% refund.
The SolarGami PV modules are made of materials that will survive any water exposure, including complete submersion. In fact the solar modules will float. However the battery pack is not water-proof due to the openings around the USB and the barrel vault charging ports. The lithium battery and the printed circuit board should never be in direct contact with water. If a waterproof battery is a desired feature, we will work to improve the water resistance of the battery pack in the future.
If your deployed SolarGami is left in the rain or snow with your battery attached, you may experience problems with water entry into the battery pack. This could adversely impact the printed circuit board and/or the lithium battery. The solar modules, depending on their orientation, are likely to help protect the battery pack, but it is advised to avoid water exposure to the battery pack by bringing it inside during inclement weather.
We plan to have an LED indicator light to show that your device is being charged.
We plan to use various LED colors (Red, Yellow and Green) to show the state of charge of the battery.
Yes. In fact we believe that multiple batteries can improve your SolarGami experience. This way you can always have a battery that’s being charged while your other batteries are being used. With multiple family members on the go, the more the better!
14. Can I have my device(s) plugged into the SolarGami while it is in the sun and charging the battery?
15. What happens if I have multiple devices plugged into the battery but there is insufficient energy to charge all of them?
If there is insufficient energy in the battery to charge all of the devices that are connected to the USB ports, one or more of the USB ports will shut down so that the maximum number of connected devices can be charged.
No. We have not designed the SolarGami to provide the level of voltage required for laptops to be charged. We may provide this feature in the future.
Giga Solar is incorporated under the laws of the state of California. The state of California, beginning in January of 2012, became the first state in the country to provide this type of corporate structure. A Flexible Purpose Corporation (FPC) is a for-profit corporation that may also pursue environmental or other public purpose objectives. This new law is intended to shield businesses from lawsuits as they pursue social objectives. Traditional, for-profit companies can face shareholder lawsuits if they prioritize social goals at the expense of profits. We wanted from the beginning to be a for-profit company, but to also have a well-defined social purpose which is stated in our Articles of Incorporation:
“improving the quality of life of all people in the world through accessible, affordable, and environmentally conscious solar products”
- (32 days)