Towards a More Sustainable and Mobile Office
Earth is melting, energy prices are surging. Camping vacation is around the corner. I'm working 100% remote. Almost every day is sunny.
Getting a solar panel and a power station seems like a good idea these days. I have absolutely no idea about either photovoltaics, batteries or electricity in general, beyond plugging plugs into outlets. With no ambition to get into electric tinkering, I looked into ready-to-use solar panels that sell in a bundle with a suitable power station, that can power my MacBook, a little camping fridge and, when at home, an external display.
After some research, I had two products on the shortlist:
Both had a lot of genuine-sounding positive reviews, but the Anker solar panels seemed to have a problem with rain (I don't remember exactly if this was an official warning or just some random person), whereas the Bluetti appeared to be okay with a few sprinkles of water. Besides that, the EB70 can store roundabout 200Wh (Watt hours) more energy than the Anker, and it's a maximum output is 1000W, whereas the Anker can deliver only 500W.
Both power stations operate with lithium iron phosphate batteries, which are way less likely to ignite or explode than lithium-ion batteries. With about 5000 charging cycles, their lifespan is also way longer than li-ion's. That's definitely something to consider when shopping for cheaper alternatives.
With an equal cost of about €1000 for either set, I opted for the Bluetti due to its greater capacity and higher output, and the slightly higher nominal yield of the solar panel (120W vs 100W). This (German) review also sounded solid, although the domain name would suggest otherwise 🙃.
By the way, It seems the Chinese brand Bluetti is being sold as Bluetti PowerOak in Germany. Same device, different label, don't be confused by that.
Charging and Using the Bluetti PowerOak EB70
While these findings might be obvious to people who are into the topic, they were new to me and may be interesting to people like me. I haven't used it yet while travelling off the grid, and it's only been a couple of days, so as always, your mileage my vary.
The power station really didn’t make compromises on ports to charge devices, as well as those to charge the power station itself:
- Solar panel
- 220V wall plug
- 12V car cigar jack
- 2⨉ 220V
- 2⨉ USB-C
- 2⨉ classic USB
- Wireless charging
My main devices
- 27“ LG 27UL850-W
- 14" MacBook Pro with M1Max, powered via the screen when connected
Power input / charging
When the panel is fully exposed to the sun, it delivers 60-90W into the power station
- I don't know if/how to achieve the nominal output of 120W, but I've heard that PV works better in colder temperatures, and it was really hot (way above 30C) during the last day
- Also, I didn't exert too much effort keeping the panels in a perfect angle towards the sun
- I'm not yet able to tell how long it would take to charge the power station fully because neither has it been empty yet, nor have I been charging without consuming energy at the same time.
- With both screen at full brightness and the MacBook's battery charging: ~93W
- Charged MacBook with closed lid and the 27" at 75% brightness: ~44W
- Charging the MacBook with USB-C (Screen on): ~77W
- Charging the MacBook with 220V plug (Screen on): ~85W
Unfortunately, I can't get full sunlight for my entire workday. At least while working with two screens and not permanently moving the solar panel to a better place, I watched the battery not being able to sustain charged over the course of a week. But I've also tried a couple of other tests, like running a larger TV from it, so it's not really representative.
I'm really curious to see how this works out when we're out camping, with a lot less need for work stuff, but a little fridge (50-90W) running.