The Solar Industry: Reviews of Integrated Photovoltaic Products

Today's solar industry is bringing PV power to the people, including a sampling of reviews of integrated photovoltaic products new on the market.

| November/December 1985

Learn about new solar industry items with these reviews of integrated photovoltaic products. 

Back when the photovoltaic industry was getting on its feet, starting about ten years ago, it was pretty much up to the user to match PV panels to power needs. You bought panels from a manufacturer or distributor and gamely tried to hook them to appliances—all too often a hit-and-miss proposition.

A recent trend in the rapidly maturing industry, however, is toward packages that incorporate cells matched to uses: integrated products. These carefully designed match-ups are an ideal way for those with little experience or expertise in alternative energy systems to get started on the road to electrical independence. And some of them are so inexpensive that you might consider them for gifts this holiday season. What better way to indoctrinate a relative who's obstinately stuck in the petroleum age?

Everyone is familiar with the most common of integrated PV devices, the solar calculator, but there are probably far more of these sorts of products than you imagined. Consequently, we decided to share these reviews of integrated photovoltaic products, a few of the representative items available today.


Energy Sciences now offers two styles of PV-powered, fan-equipped hats. The Solair-cool Safari Helmet, at $69.95, has a small panel on top of the helmet, as well as a battery holder for cloudy climates and a sponge for evaporative cooling. The new Solar Cool Baseball Cap uses the same fan and PV panel as the helmet but locates the cells on the bill. The baseball cap is priced at $29.95 and comes with a sponge but not a back-up battery holder.


If you've ever left your car unattended for an extended period, you know that the battery will eventually go dead if it's not used. Solar Electric Engineering's Maintainer 12-volt trickle chargers sit on the dash of your car and provide enough current to keep the battery alive despite your lack of attention. The panels can be connected directly to the battery or plugged into a cigarette lighter. Two models with different capacities are available.

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These run the gambit of uses for solar PV but in most cases they fall short of hopes for new uses and efficiencies in solar technology. Being in the pool industry, the pool pump application is interesting, but apparently cost prohibitive at best. A poor economy seems to spur us to use alternative energy, but it also prevents us from being able to afford to implement it freely, helping to reduce the costs overall. I applaud Walmart for their solar power initiatives, and it is a rare moment when finding good about that company or should it read Empire! Thank goodness for early adopters with money to burn.

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