"Even if there were a few of these devices spread throughout the communities, it would be a huge help," he said.
The Forty2 will initially retail for $799, with a $100 discount for preorders. Nearly all of the parts and the assembly is being done in the upper Midwest
The fold-up unit features 200 watts worth of solar panels, a 500-watt-hour lithium Ion rechargeable battery and three built-in AC outlets. Devices can run both directly off the solar panels and off the battery, depending on how much power is needed. The panels recharge the battery when the draw is low.
"There's really not going to be any dials or switches or anything," Fey said. "It's just you open it toward the sun, plug your device in and it works."
The Solar Energy Industries Association reported more than 20 utility-scale photovoltaic projects were completed during the second quarter, marking the largest quarter ever for solar panel installations.
Smaller, off-grid solar ventures are harder to track, said Monique Hanis, an SEIA spokeswoman.
Hanis said a recent industry conference in Orlando included a panel that discussed growing military demand for portable solar to charge radios and other equipment in the theater.
While much of the solar industry is focused on large utility-scale and in-building projects, Gramm said that personal, portable solar offers freedom because the devices can be placed where they're needed — such as a hurricane-ravaged community or a Native American reservation.
"We should make it smaller and lighter," he said. "Then you can take it around to wherever you need to be to use it."