Solar Charger With Tracking Comes In A Briefcase

Does it work as advertised? No idea. We haven’t received one to test (and at $1,500 a pop, we’re not expecting one). But on its face, this solar-in-a-briefcase charger is way cool.

What’s unique about the SunSocket Sun-Tracking Solar Generator is that it comes with tracking. That’s right: The photovoltaic panel will follow the sun as it moves across the sky. Presumably this helps boost the efficiency of the 60 watts of monocrystalline PV that the thing comes armed with – and the specs put the efficiency at 19 percent, which is indeed robust for a portable unit.

sun tracking solar charger

image via Aspect Solar

At 25 pounds, you’d have to say the SunSocket qualifies as portable, particularly when it folds tidily into the 16.5-inch by 20.2-inch by4.2-inch case.

One of the leading portable solar generator companies that we cover is Goal Zero, and it’s kind of interesting to compare this unit to something fairly comparable from Goal Zero. Our Beth Buczynski recently wrote about the 29-pound Yeti 400 – four pounds heavier than the SunSocket. It “delivers 400 watt-hours of power, which according to the company is enough to charge a smartphone 30+ times, a laptop 5 times, running a TV for 3 hours or 100+ hours of light with Goal Zero’s Light-a-Life LED lantern.”

The SunSocket claims to store 256 watt-hours, so the Yeti has larger capacity. And it’s a good deal cheaper, with an MSRP of $459.99.

But here’s where the SunSocket could win out: In good sun, it claims a solar charge time of five hours. In “poor sun,” that time does increase to nine hours – but that’s still way less than the 30 hours it takes for the Yeti panel to power up, even adjusting for the differing battery capacities. In part, this just reflects the higher wattage of the SunSocket panel – 60 watts of PV vs. 27 watts with the Yeti. Then there’s the tracking aspect of the SunSocket. As Aspect explains, it’s really what separates the unit from others:

A common problem with current solar kits these days is that many users do not realize that solar panels need to face the sun to maximize their efficiency. If the sun moves behind the panels then their efficiency and power drop to almost zero. Even if the solar panels are placed flat on the ground or table, they will only provide power during the couple of hours that the sun is at its peak position. Our solar-tracking technology removes this problem, and positions the panels to the location of the highest intensity from the sun so that you always know that you are getting the most power that you can get. Leave the SunSocket solar generator outside while you are camping, or at a picnic, and know that you never have to move it.

Of course you can plug the thing into a socket at home to charge the 20Ah lithium iron phosphate battery. And the unit has USB, 12V DC and AC Universal outputs.

You can check out a company-produced video of the SunSocket in action on Youtube.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.