Carmanah Technologies Corp, a Victoria company known worldwide for its solar-powered marine, airport and highway lights, is stretching a green arm into the computer industry.
NEC Displays Solutions of America unveiled Carmanah's new solar battery system for computer monitors this week at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Carmanah CEO Art Aylesworth called the partnership with Irving, Texas-based NEC Displays - a division of NEC Corp (NASDAQ:NIPNY) - as a strong breakthrough for solar power in consumer electronics.
"It is comparable in principle to the solar-powered calculator but on a much-larger scale of energy and costs savings," Aylesworth said yesterday.
NEC, which calls itself a leading stand-alone provider of flat-panel desktop displays, is selling the solar-power battery systems to retail and business consumers in North America.
No terms of the deal between the companies were disclosed.
The system, which includes batteries and a solar panel that absorbs light from rooftops or walls, will produce about 293 kilowatt hours of electricity per year, or about 800 watts per day - enough to significantly reduce or eliminate a monitor's use of electricity from the grid. The system is compatible with all NEC desktop monitors.
Carmanah said a fully charged set of batteries can power a monitor for days. Stored energy from a sunny day can power a monitor at night, and stored energy from a weekend can power a monitor for much of the workweek or act as a backup during a power outage.
Multiple monitors can also run simultaneously from the same system, making it attraction for business applications.
Aylesworth said there are substantial energy savings for large companies with "potentially thousands of dollars per year in reduced energy costs, as well as significantly less pollution from electricity generation."
He added it's also one of the easiest ways for consumers to improve energy efficiency and generate their own renewable power.
Mike Stephens, Carmanah's sales manager for mobile power systems in North America, said the systems will sell for $2,500 US. There is also a single-panel system that sells for $1,500 US. The main package includes two 120-watt panels, three 12-volt solar batteries, a digital charge controller, power inverter and battery charger.
The systems are being assembled in Victoria as well as Carmanah shipping plants in Calgary, Barrie, Ont., and Santa Cruz, Calif.
The batteries have a 20-year lifespan and the panels last 50 years or longer.
Stephens said NEC contacted Carmanah about customizing a system last year. "That's the gratifying part... they came to us," he said. "NEC has a green initiative. Like a lot of companies these days, they want to get involved in green projects."
Stephens said the project took about a month, using parts Carmanah already uses for other solar-power projects. It was very close to the RV Kit Carmanah sells for recreational vehicles.
The right components and some adjustments, Stephens added, gave the monitor a perfectly clean screen free of lines.
Aylesworth said the NEC deal diversifies Carmanah, which has been manufacturing lights and signs for more than 20 years. "We've taken our proven solar technology and created a self-contained solar generator for a new application," he said. "Uses like this mark a new direction for our company."
Carmanah (TSX:CMH) shares rose 19 cents - nearly six per cent - to $3.40 in trading Wednesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.