My unofficial greentech CES guide

Solar power gadgets galore, greener mobile devices, intelligent outlets, solar-powered robot kits and home energy management systems will be among the megashow's greentech highlights.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

Boo-hoo, I won't be at this year's Consumer Electronics show, but if you WILL be there, make sure to stop by the Sustainable Planet exhibit, which features some of the greentech and cleantech developments that will be shown off this year.

Truth be told, many of the companies listed as planned exhibitors fall into the category of battery technologies or power-strip-type accessory folk as well some technology recycling companies. But if I were able to traipse the aisles of the Sustainable Planet area in the Las Vegas Convention Center, South Hall, here are some of the companies that I would go visit.

Goal Zero LCC Hailing from Bluffdale, Utah, Goal Zero was founded by a humanitarian aid worker who were looking for a reliable source of mobile power for his gadgets. Its products include the Nomad 7M solar panel, priced at $99.99, and the Sherpa Universal Inverter, priced at $79.99. The Nomad (pictured to the right), allows you to charge your mobile devices directly, using a USB and 12-volt DC charging port.

Shenzhen Rising Sun Eastern Industry Co.Among other things, this Chinese maker of charging devices is touting a solar laptop charger that it says can work with up to 90 percent of the different netbooks and larger laptop devices on the market (pictured to the left) within two to three hours. The company is also involved with solar powered speakers, solar lamps, solar billboards and solar-charger backpacks and bags.

SolarFocus I have written about this maker of solar charging devices before. With offices in Taiwan and the Netherlands, SolarFocus has some pretty high-profile North American distributors and retailers in the form of R.E.I., L.L. Bean, E.M.S., Real Goods, Mountain Equipment Coop and Home Hardware. Among the products that is sells are the battery-style solar charger, Solar Duo, or the SolarSupra, which is billed as a portable power generator.

SolarTech With five patents pending for solar charging technology, SolarTech of Bellevue, Wash., positions itself as a broad provider of solar energy solutions. I'm not exactly sure what the means, but I DO know that the company has entered into a licensing agreement with Apple to create an iPhone solar charger.

ThinkEco This New York-based company is touting what it calls the "modlet" (aka the "modern outlet"). The technology behind this energy-intelligent device is meant to help reduce so-called plug-load waste, or what you might think of as the vampire power problem -- when electronics devices suck up electricity when they are not in use. The company is currently pitching its patent-pending technology to businesses, which can manage loads across a facility. Supposedly, businesses will be able to save up to 10 percent of their utility bill without any major behavioral changes. A consumer edition of the modlet is due to reach market during the first half of 2011.

Urban Green Energy This New York-based company focuses on small wind energy technology, making what it calls vertical axis turbines. It is targeting property owners, real-estate developers and others that are seeking to generate at least a portion of their power needs through renewable energy.

Voltaic Systems A New York-based specialist in solar-charging accessories and technologies, meant for portability. Backpacks and rugged compact solar panels are among its flagship products.

Watts Clever Aside from boasting a fun name, this company, which hails from Hong Kong, make power strips, compact energy monitors for your home or office, and a range of LED lighting products.

Toshiba America Although it isn't in the Sustainable Planet area, Toshiba America's booth in the Las Vegas Convention Center will be dedicated to this theme: "Toshiba's Environmental Vision 2050: A Higher Quality of Life for Earth's Future Generations." This is much a promo for the company's corporate sustainability vision -- such as recyclable packaging and green supply chain initiatitives -- as anything else, but the company will be showing off a home energy management system, its new rechargeable SCiB (Super-Charge Ion) battery, solar panels and LED lights.

Verizon Power management will be a focus of the Verizon Home Monitoring and Control system that will be demonstrated by the carrier during the show. The service, which is being piloted in New Jersey, includes an energy reader, smart appliance switches, smart power strips, motion sensors and so on. This video gives you a demo, if you won't be in Vegas either.

Sprint I've just set up some interview time with Sprint on Friday, Jan. 7, to discuss their new green design criteria for mobile phones and other consumer electronics devices. The carrier is teaming up with ULE on a new international standard that includes protocols for energy efficiency, recycled content, packaging and environmental labeling. Stay tuned for more details on that collaboration after I chat with someone from their team.

OWI I'm thinking of these as solar-power Legos. The company, which is based out of Carson, Calif., produces kits that let you assemble miniatures robots. During CES, OWI will be showing off several toys and educational products that are aimed at helping children understand renewable energy. Once assembled the robots, such as the flying horse in the video, use solar power to fly, walk or move.


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