Solar-powered monitors not so bright?

These solar panels look cumbersome.

Elsa Wenzel
2 min read
Large solar panel for monitors
Carmanah's solar power for NEC monitors NEC

File this in the "not there yet" folder. A bunch of blogs have covered a new, solar-powered system for NEC monitors, yet none show how it looks. My mind's eye pictured a tidy, laptop-size solar panel. But when I received this photo from NEC, I couldn't stifle a chuckle. Who wants to claw their way to a corporate window seat only to have mammoth solar panels block the view? Oh, and try not to kick that battery pack.

The equipment is designed for big businesses that aim to cut costs with clean, off-the-grid energy sources, but the $1,999 (monitor not included) price tag seems hard to swallow. NEC maintains that the 800-watts-per-day panels, made by Carmanah Technologies, are "very light" at 32 pounds each and "do not distract [from] any work space." A company could install them on a roof, for instance. Maybe the picture doesn't show the best use. Even so, why would you want solar power only for a monitor? You could probably run a connected computer at the same time, but not very well if you're seriously multitasking. In a power outage, you'd have a bright display but no guarantee that the computer would stay on.

Meanwhile, inroads in display technology are creating a new class of energy-sipping monitors. Those with LEDs or OLEDs are especially efficient; running them on a clunky solar system would be hard to justify. Why not install a comprehensive system of rooftop solar panels for the entire office building instead? Plus, in the coming decade, thinner, more compact solar panels that maximize available sunlight are likely to come to market. Solar roof tiles are neat, for example, and holographic technology could be promising. On a smaller scale, lots of portable solar gizmos charge handhelds, laptops, and even headsets.

NEC has demonstrated a commitment to ecologically sustainable technologies, but this product needs more time and trimming before it can look convenient.