Solar powered MacBook Pro

I have a evdo card for my Mac laptop which is super useful… it allows high speed internet access virtually anywhere in the US. But, what would be REALLY cool would be being able to go to a national park and work for a week. For that, you need solar power.

Everytime I research any “green alternative” I’m shocked at just how bad the options still are. They’ve barely advanced in 10 years (since I last lived of a wind generator on a sailboat for 5 years).

The MacBook Pro requires either 60 watts or 85 watts to run (on the power brick it says it outputs 18.5V @ 4.6A or 16.5V @ 3.6A; W=V*A). Given that solar panels rarely reach peak power output it’d be conservative to go with the high wattage and more conservative to add quite a bit more.

Sierra Solar Systems make a 20W portable version for $390. You’d probably need 5 of those to run your laptop all day… which is and outrageous $1,950. So – that’s a pretty silly option. If you only needed to use your computer for a few hours you could probably recharge the battery with one of these (in, from what I’ve read, 6+ hours) but, to work an 8 hour shift… you’re looking at 4-5 of these.

So, let’s look at the less portable, much heavier, Large Solar Panels. You could two Kyocera’s for $289 a piece and that’d give you 100W for $578 and only weigh 22lbs. Or get one monster SolarWorld SW165 mono P for $755 at 33lbs and get a generous 165W – so, even running at 50% effeciency (cloudy day) you’d still probably be in business.

All this would only be useful for car camping which, given EVDO coverage, is probably you’re only real option anyway.

Of course – let’s look at the fossil fuel alternative. You can get an ultra quiet Honda EU2000i for a around $850 and get 2000W out it. Weighs in at 46lbs. Runs around 4 hours on 1 gallon of gas.

So – Solar is price competitive but not all that portable. You could cover the top of an RV with solar panels though and live a pretty normal life (fridge, computer, tv) in a fairly remote area and still get work done.