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Solar Power for PC Deployments: Enabling ICT Beyond the Grid

By Guest Writer on July 4, 2011

Technology for converting solar energy to electricity was first introduced over 130 years ago, and it has been used to power PCs for more than 20 years. However, until recently it has been prohibitively expensive to use solar energy to power PCs in areas where the electric grid is not available. Energy-hungry PCs simply put too much demand on the limited generation capabilities of the solar panels.


A few years ago, a typical desktop PC using a processor such as the Intel® Pentium® 4 Processor 2.8Ghz supporting Hyper-Threading technology consumed about 80W to 100W. A 15″ CRT monitor consumed an additional 70W to 100W, so a complete PC desktop system used 150W to 200W.

By comparison, a modern netbook based on an Intel® Atom processor with a 10” screen consumes just 12W to 15W total. A laptop using an Intel® Celeron® M ultra low voltage (ULV) processor with a larger 13″ wide screen display can consume as little as 20W to 25W. New power-efficient desktop designs offer similar improvements.

The Inveneo Computing Station, for example, is based on the Intel® Atom™ processor D410 and consumes about 15W. Coupled with the Inveneo energy efficient LCD display, the entire system consumes only about 22W. Thus, a modern PC can provide a rich experience while consuming 90% less power of a typical desktop system of just a few years ago.

Yet even as computers have become much more energy efficient in recent years, many people still perceive solar energy as being too expensive for PC deployments. In this paper we will explain the technological changes that have made solar power cost feasible for PC deployments, and provide an overview of how to design for a solar powered PC deployment.

The objective of Solar Power for PC Deployments: Enabling ICT Beyond the Grid is not to replace the need for an experienced solar installer; rather, it is to provide basic knowledge to help the reader prepare a budget for a solar deployment, and to be able to effectively communicate the requirements to an installer.

More Information

The Inveneo Solar Power Deployment Guide is a how-to guide to specify, design and build a small-scale self-contained solar power system, emphasizing a “hands-on” approach with step-by-step methods to designing and building truly practical solar systems. We have also developed a list of Solar Power Resources for Designing PV Systems in Rural Computer Projects.


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2 Comments to “Solar Power for PC Deployments: Enabling ICT Beyond the Grid”

  1. KAN says:

    Super however the ICT experience is not complete unless connection to the web.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I wish to raise the problem of temperature of panels and say that the STC of 25 deg C is ridiculously low and at the normal operating temperature of 60-80deg the output is at least 30% less than the customer thinks he is buying. I fitted an ammeter in my small (3*50W) set 27 years ago where I live some 5km from the equator and at 2000m altitude in Kenya and observed that the charging rate never exceeds 7.5A except when the sun comes from behind a cloud near mid day when it rises to 12A but falls rapidly to 7,5A after about 10 sec. It also charges at a higher rate on windy days due to the cooling effect but only if the panels are high above the roof. This should be emphasised in the installation advice and should be more widely known that it is a rip off.
    T B Muckle