Power Wi-Fi using the sun, says startup

Solis Energy backup design good for seven days.

A small US startup has announced technology for running Wi-Fi routers in remote places using only the power of the sun.

Among the first round of products from Solis Energy is the Solar Power Plant, touted as being capable of supplying 12, 24 and 48 Volts DC for use in stand-alone applications such as surveillance cameras and outdoor Wi-Fi.

Comprising a large solar panel connected to a generator unit, the system claims to be able to power such devices for up to seven days without sunlight to recharge its batteries, hence the out-sized panels. In normal use, power stored during the day keeps the system running at night.

The company also has a separate "tap adaptor" that can be used to feed 120 volts of AC power to Wi-Fi, Wimax and other outdoor systems from ordinary street lights. A third product, the Outdoor UPS, can be used to provide solar-generated battery backup for critical infrastructure and municipal Wi-Fi.

"Our products provide continuous, reliable outdoor power generation, connectivity and emergency secondary power back-up, anywhere it's needed, including remote locations that don't have power," said Solis CEO and founder Robert Reynolds.

"Whether on-grid or off-grid, our products are easy to install, requiring no special expertise, and they give our customers the ability to take control of their outdoor power," he said.

The company hopes that apart from the benefit of being able to cut power consumption, the technology will encourage organizations to site Wi-Fi in places they might otherwise not consider, such as away from mains power.

The issue of power has always been a problem for wireless technology. Even though the signal can, in theory, go anywhere, in practice the lack of available - or affordable - power can often stymie installation. Solis Energy's new products suggest this limitation could soon be a thing of the past.

Solar-powered Wi-Fi appears to be an emerging technology with market legs. In June, a 400-site solar-powered network was established in Minneapolis in the US. Not long after, Paris announced almost identical plans.

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John E. Dunn

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