April 29, 2013, 1:11 PM — Harnessing the sun is an idea that broadly resonates with people, but is often most useful for smaller devices with lesser energy needs. Brown Dog Gadgets is looking to capitalize on this fact a neat little bundle of device-charging panels simply labeled the Folding USB Solar Cell (funding through May 2).
It's a simple package--a fact that is very much part of its appeal. A black canvas enclosure wraps up several monocrystalline solar panels. These panels feed electricity to a single USB port. The three available sizes put out 5-, 7-, or 10 watts at about 1-, 1.5-, or 2 Amps, respectively. That's it. You can drape it over a backpack, leave it in a window, hang it like a tapestry--all the while pumping juice into whatever gadget you've attached. You can optionally get one bundled with a lithium Power Bank battery that you can charge from the USB Solar Cell or other USB power source.
Pledge options that reward you with cells begin at $55 for the 5W version, stepping up to $70 and $90 for the beefier 7W and 10W varieties, respectively. Batteries bearing capacities of 2600-, 5600-, and 10,000 mAh capacities are available by their lonesome for $25, $40, or $60, respectively, or bundled with a solar cell array in one of the plethora of bundle options.
Project creator Brown Dog Gadgets describes itself as a "group of hobbyists and teachers" and currently offers of a wide range of electronic doodads from solar spiders to noise makers, with solar energy being a bit of a specialty. And the modest $5000 funding goal had been exceeded 26 times over when this story was published. But head Joshua Zimmerman is a busy middle school teacher who readily admits never having any products manufactured previously, and seems overly optimistic about getting everything done and delivered to backers by July. But given the simplicity of the product, it might just happen.