Goal Zero solar power at Costco


The Woodinville (WA) Costco has a solar power display set up this week (through Saturday, I believe) with some items from GOAL ZERO. There's a 15 watt panel for $100 that's significantly smaller than the other 15w panels I've seen. A 150W 'power pack' for $130(?) that you charge from the solar panel and which in turn will power/charge small items such as cell phones, laptops, etc. A 3W LED light (the 'Light-a-Life') and a few other items. Their website includes an interesting array of devices, from pocket-size to permanent install types. Their large 350W power pack says it's an AGM battery which as I understand it means it's a deep cycle battery -- and it therefore surprises me that the stats say it only cycles 500-800 times. I'm assuming this is a roaming display on a trial basis, so it might show up at a Costco near you.

I'm thinking it might be worth getting some of this to experiment with. One concern is how far the cable run can be from the solar panel to the battery -- given it's 12V DC and the wire is probably 16 or 18 AWG, I think they need to be fairly close (but I don't know if that means 3 feet or 10 feet or what). Am wondering if a batch of these panels, combined with a 12V deep cycle battery pack, might be handy to have around. I'm assuming one could deploy multiple panels in parallel to reduce the charging times. And I have yet to see an LED light as nice as the one for sale in Costco (sorry, don't remember the price; thought it was $30 but probably not since it's $49.95 on the goalzero website).

Since I'm close to the latitude of Seattle, I have to wonder how useful solar panels are on cloudy days where the sun is only up for ~8 hours. Some other things I've considered:

- Bicycle powered generator like this: Pedal Power Bicycle Generator
- Building a pedal powered generator from this guy's plans: David Butcher: Pedal Powered Generator - DIY Plans
- Water power, although I don't believe the small creek near my house is sufficient, it is a consideration if looking for remote property to purchase. The Mother Earth News from 1972 (Issues #13 and #14) reprinted 5 articles from Popular Science in 1947 that provided a lot of details. I would think there's something more current but I've yet to find it.
- No power backup. Not so sure about this one. I can store a lot of useful reference data (e.g. topographic maps, books, magazine articles) in electronic form.

Am still in the planning stages on this. Does anyone have any success/horror stories around any of these alternatives? How far can you run 12V DC from solar panel to the power cell?


Stopped by Costco Friday evening and the rep was there this time. He stated there are similar displays at the Kirkland and Issaquah Costco's through Sunday (the 19th). He's headed to Salinas next week, and the products may return to WA in 2 to 3 months depending on how the trial goes.

They had the Guide 10 Adventure kit on hand for $100, so I picked up one of those to experiment with. Small enough for backpacking, and supposedly able to charge cell phones, etc., in addition to charging standard NimH AA or AAA batteries. [and unlike what's on the goalzero website, the Costco version DOES include 4 AA and 4 AAA batteries, plus a Luna light] This is going on the next camping trip.

For the larger kits, I learned you can daisy chain 2 of the 15W panels and charge the power packs at twice the speed of using a single panel.

The company behind this is in Utah, but it turns out they have the equipment manufactured in China. I was hoping it was US made.


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Arms Collectors of SW Washington Gun Show
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