Heralding a change

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Changers are in the process of releasing onto the market a portable photovoltaic charging device that will generate and provide energy for technology like smartphones, i-pads or portable readers like the Kindle.

While portable chargers have been around for some time, one of things that makes Changers different is that it provides an integrated online platform through which users can log the amount of energy they’ve – for the lack of a better word – created, convert that to CO2 saved and then get online credits that they can then spend with Changers’ partners.

The Changers charger and system was launched just under three weeks ago at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. The Changers team is based in Berlin however, and some technology journalists have reported that it has the backing of photovoltaic technology provider centrotherm. The solar cell used in the Changers white-backed "Maroshi" charger is a CIGS, thin-film cell from Ascent Solar in Colorado.

Markus Schulz, co-founder and CEO, told pv magazine that central to the Changers concept is to develop a currency through which small-scale photovoltaic power generation – and therefore C02 savings – could be understood and expressed online. "There’s a new value in the world and that’s carbon dioxide savings and we have a device that generates and produces this value."

Specs

The Changers system is available for pre-order now and hopes to begin shipping around November 15. The system includes a four-watt photovoltaic module, a battery unit including two lithium-ion batteries worth 16 watt-hours, and USB connector cable. The system costs USD149.00 and is shipping to the U.S. and Europe.

Web integration

In the unique take on portable photovoltaic generation, on the Changers website users can create a profile and account and begin logging their electricity generation and C02 savings. Communities, friends, cities and even countries can then compete with their generation quantities.

The next step, in the Changers approach, is to allow you to exchange your C02 savings for Changers credits. These can then be used as currency at partner organizations to purchase products or services. At present there is only one such partner, Holstee.com – an online shop for sustainable goods – and Hans Raffauf, the Head of Communications at Changers admits that attracting more partners is key to the concept taking off.

"We are heavily working on building the partnership model and looking for partners who share our values and vision." At present Holstee.com will exchange one Changer credit for ten cents on the site. So for 100 Changers credits you can receive ten dollars (USD). According to Raffauf, that can be achieved in five to seven days, in a sunny place.

With this type of potential savings and the ability to generate online credits, the chance to change how people think about solar power and a sleek design, Changers might just have the right model to cut through the portable photovoltaic charger market and get the devices accepted more widely.

Key to making this next step would be to provide a module and battery that is sufficiently powerful to charge a laptop as well. But as Raffauf describes, the team have created,"“the first currency backed by the sun!"