World's lightest expedition solar panels now half the size: ExWeb Q&A;

Posted: Mar 08, 2011 10:50 pm EST

( The second generation of HET's Feather solar panel series is here, slashing previous size in half. This means twice the watts on your back, sled or tent - or half to lug around - your choice. It's elementary, my dear Watson. What to do with your outdated panels? No sweat, HET will buy them back!

Originally manufactured for the US military and space missions, the tech is brand new and now HumanEdgeTech is bringing it to the world's extreme explorers. Here goes the scoop with Tom Sjogren.

Exweb: In a February Everest tech report you talked about exciting power technology coming up for expeditions - is this it?

Tom: It's a big step. Thinfilm is the future of solar and Feather was the lightest foldable panel available. Feather2 is just as light but much smaller.

Exweb: How come?

Tom: When a solar ray hits a solar cell it releases the electrons we use for electricity. The elements used in the cells are important - the more efficient they are the better they harness the sun's power. Feather2 uses a CIGS mix (Copper, Iridium, Gallium, Selenium) that has been promising for some time but too heavy for trekkers and expeditions - until now.

Exweb: What does that mean in practice?

Tom: Weight per watt is always number one for expeditions and trekkers, but if packed into smaller package gear will become more compact with further weight savings. Unsupported polar expeditions and lightweight climbers on winter routes are not the only ones to benefit: hikers and campers all suddenly get to carry less or use more.

11.7% efficiency is the highest for a thinfilm material and makes the panel more "forgiving" as well in less than ideal conditions.

Exweb: "Ideal conditions" what are they?

Tom: Contrary to popular belief, cold temperature is better than hot when charging solar panels. Placing the panel straight at the sun is better than at an angle. Fact is that at 45 degrees you have already lost 50% of the power.

Sunshine or limited overcast is obviously preferred. Keeping the panel clean will also increase effect.

Exweb: You have introduced a BUY BACK program? What's that all about?

Tom: Plenty of old panels out there are not being used anymore. They might be unsuitable for expeditions and hikes but perfectly fine for less demanding situations.

Hate to see stuff go to waste so we are kind of throwing the first card into recycling of mobile solar.

Exweb: What will you do with the old panels?

Tom: We have ideas but haven't decided yet. We might open a second market and/or fix up remote villages. Let's see how it goes.

Exweb: Feather2 being more efficient does that mean you don't need P50 or other battery to charge a laptop?

Tom: No it's unrelated. Charging laptop from solar depends on the computer's charging system, not the panel. To avoid frying your computer, you should always charge a battery from the panel, and then use the battery to charge the laptop.

Smaller devices like sat phones and iPad can charge straight from solar panels up to 20Watt.

Exweb: There's a free Multimeter with each solar purchase, why?

Tom: If you pull too hard on a cable or step on it with crampons the system will stop working. It could be an easy fix with a knife and some electric tape - IF you know what the problem is...

We don't mind assisting with repairs but "the solar doesn't work" explanation offers little to work with. A five second multimeter check can easily diagnose the problem.

Most expeditions don't bring this little device so we decided to include it. We also include a quick guide to basic error search and fixes working for all electronics, not only solar.

HumanEdgeTech is a unique, no-nonsense virtual expedition tech warehouse for satellite communications and edge technology. Created by explorers for explorers, the store is user-friendly with no-hassle pricing, expedition-tested gear, expedition-ready hardware, fast delivery and payments. accepts most international credit cards, and delivers worldwide within 72 hours. Contact Tom and the Human Edge Tech Team at +1 212 966 1928 or by email

#Mountaineering #Polar #Oceans #Trek #Tech #topstory

Climber using Feather2 10W 250 gram (8.8 oz) panel attached to daypack. The 10W will charge a satellite phone, iPod or iPad in a matter of hours.
Image by Tom Sjogren courtesy, SOURCE
Launched in 2006, watt/kg Feather was always by far the lightest panel on the market. New technology keeps the same low weight but Feather2 enjoys half the size. The result is the lightest and smallest foldable panel in the world.
Image by Tom Sjogren courtesy Explorersweb, SOURCE
At 11.7% efficiency the solar cells are twice as effective as the previous panels. The CIGS thin film reaches levels until now only available in heavy, rigid panels for fixed installations.
Image by Tom Sjogren courtesy, SOURCE
It takes one to know one. Image of Tom in his North Pole Sunday best (note the yellow handles customized for easier zipper pulling) for size comparison of expedition tech.
Image by Tom Sjogren courtesy, SOURCE