Vernon’s Matt Siegler demonstrates the flexibility of the thin-film solar modules used in Sun Flare Systems’ SOS in a Box solar disaster kit.

Sun Flare sending SOS

Vernon's Sun Flare Systems develops solar disaster kit.

No batteries. No problem.

Sun Flare Systems has taken the latest in solar technology and given it a portable twist.

With its new SOS (Solar Operation Simply) in a Box, the family-owned Vernon company has developed a solar disaster kit that will generate power anywhere there is available ultraviolet light.

The kit’s thin-film solar modules are durable, yet flexible enough to be rolled up and squeezed into a weatherproof Stanley Tool box. Because the unit weighs less than 50 pounds, it can be transported on airlines.

“This has put us in the lead when importing much-needed equipment into locations where it is needed the most,” said Sun Flare CEO Matthew Siegler, who operates the company with parents Joel and Diane Siegler.

The SOS’s compact size makes it ideal for use in disaster areas, or in developing nations where electricity isn’t always available. Siegler, a former electrical contractor, first came up with SOS in a Box after he began working with the Anchor Academy in Salmon Arm.

“They do a lot of relief efforts in Kenya, Africa, and they came to us and asked for a quote,” said Siegler, noting the unit would also be useful for hunting, camping and search and rescue.

Available in 136- and 204-Watt models, the SOS kit comes with all the cabling attached in one wired unit, making it virtually a ‘plug and play’ device. A flush-mounted, weatherproof, 120-volt, 15-amp power outlet at the end of the box makes for easy access. There is also a 12V outlet.

During the daylight process, the SOS harvests the sun’s energy through a charge controller mounted inside the box. This trickle charges a 12V, 18A battery through a 400W inverter.

At night, the SOS is capable of running low-wattage LED lights, radios and other emergency equipment, or even charging cell phones.

“You think of the sun as your fuel source,” said Siegler. “You run everything you want during the day, and then at night you have enough reserve to maintain the laptop for a period of time.”

Starting at around $1,500, the SOS is less than half the weight of a standard gas generator, has a zero-carbon footprint, makes no noise and is capable of charging the equivalent of five laptop computers simultaneously (in daylight).

Advances in industry technology mean solar panels no longer have to be mounted at a 45-degree angle. Nor does it have to be ultra-sunny for them to work efficiently, says Siegler.

“You can lay them flat, hang them from trees. You can shoot a hole through one and not actually compromise the panels,” he said.

“Yes, there’s way more energy on a perfectly sunny day, but the panel technology right now is you just need UV light – anything outdoors.”

Sun Flare Systems is also using solar technology to put a unique spin on billboard advertising. Siegler discovered it is possible to place a vinyl graphic directly over a solar panel without it interfering with its ability to capture energy.

“A lot of illumination in the advertising industry depends on revenue,” said Siegler. “We have taken a very simple tool and turned it into an advertising revenue stream with zero carbon footprint – lit.”

Sun Flare’s billboards range from single-pane solar mini-boards, which can be installed anywhere and operated independent of the power grid, up to full-sized versions. If the billboards are connected to the grid, any excess solar power can be fed back in for a credit. It is also possible to retrofit existing signs so that the solar panel becomes the fuel source, or swap them over and have any additional power generated sold back to the grid.

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