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
- (32 days)