There’s an increasing awareness that full reliability on America’s electrical grid isn’t the wisest course of action.
Ted Koppel pointed out the numerous weaknesses within our power grid due to aging infrastructure, cyberattack weakness, and lack of spare parts in his book Lights Out.
William Forstchen highlighted the effects of an EMP on the U.S. in his book One Second After.
And if there’s one thing that the recent power outage in Texas and the cyber-attack on the East Coast pipeline taught us, it pays to have a backup plan.
One way you can have a backup plan as an American citizen is to invest in an emergency solar power setup.
This provides a means for you to harvest the sun’s power to generate at least some of your own electricity, giving energy in potentially perilous times.
But aren’t there lots of options on the market? How do you know what’s worth getting?
Lucky for you, we at Pew Pew Tactical fully analyzed the marketplace to bring you the best emergency solar power setups.
If the ability to still make coffee, keep your fridge cold, and have some lighting in your house sounds interesting…then read on.
Table of Contents
Do I Really Need Solar Power?
Like we mentioned earlier, the electrical grid is fragile. As of 2018, the average American lost power for a total of 5 hours per year.
Where I live, that’s a low number. Really low.
After the last bad derecho, people where I lived were without power for three weeks or more.
And yeah, I get that the above number is an average for the entire U.S.
Most people don’t see a derecho every year, but it’s worth mentioning that the number of natural disasters within the U.S. is increasing.
It’s also worth mentioning that access to nuclear weapons means some countries have EMP capability.
If you’ve read the 2008 EMP Commission Report, then you know its findings concluded that within the span of one year post-EMP, 90% of Americans would be dead.
Violence, starvation, temperature extremes, lack of medical care, and disease would lead many Americans to the grave.
However, the ability to harvest your own electricity from the sun is one very easy step that can be taken to give you a thicker layer of resiliency against disaster.
How Solar Power Works
The sun is the key to all of this. The sun gives off light, right? Well, that light is electromagnetic radiation.
And before you get your underwear in a knot after hearing the word “radiation,” solar radiation isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Just over one hour, the sun will give off enough electromagnetic radiation to power the entire world’s power consumption for one year.
That’s a lot of energy. And if we can capture it, we can utilize it.
Thankfully, we do have a way to capture that energy, and it comes from this — photovoltaic cells (PV, for short).
When exposed to sunlight, PV cells absorb its energy, causing electricity to flow.
Technically, PV cells absorb sunlight which creates electrical charges within the solar panel. An internal electrical field within the PV cell pushes the electrical charge along, and thus, you end up with an electrical flow.
But that’s all engineer gibberish.
All you need to know — PV cells capture sunlight and turn it into electricity. If you have that down, you’re good to go.
Portability Is Key
Note that we’re looking at the best emergency solar setups.
While having solar panels installed on the roof of your house or keeping a dedicated solar panel setup in your backyard is beneficial, that’s not what we’re interested in today.
Instead, we want to focus on what kind of solar panel setups we can implement quickly and efficiently in an emergency.
As such, we’re primarily emphasizing portability.
These are all setups that you can keep stored in a basement or garage until you need them; pull them out and set them up to provide quick access to electrical power.
Best Emergency Solar Power Setups
1. The Patriot Power Cell
This is probably the best pocket-sized solar panel on the market.
Crafted by 4 Patriots – a Utah-based survival company – the Patriot Power Cell is one of their most popular products.
They’ve already sold roughly 1.5 million of these!
This charger easily fits into your pocket, doubling as a battery bank as well.
This means you can harvest solar energy on the spot, but you also store it for extended periods. Within a disaster situation, that’s a big deal.
The Patriot Power Cell can be completely drained approximately 500 times before dying, meaning that you should be able to get over five years of use from it.
As far as charging goes, like most emergency solar setups out there, you can either harvest sunlight or plug this directly into a wall outlet to recharge the battery bank.
Recharging via solar does take a long time for this little guy, though.
Depending on the weather, it can take up to 40 hours to completely recharge solely from solar. If you use a wall outlet, that time reduces to 6 hours for a full charge.
This device charges two devices at once via its two USB ports and features an 8,000-milliamp-hour capacity. Also, it sports a rain-resistant design with a 2-year warranty and a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
Coming in at all of $30, this isn’t a bad deal for an emergency solar kit.
2. Renogy Portable E.Flex Monocrystalline 10-Watt Solar Panel
Let’s say you’re not necessarily as interested in a power bank as you are in some form of portable solar panel.
If that’s more your speed, then you may want to check out the Renogy Portable E.Flex.
This teeny, little solar panel comes in at 8.7-ounces, easily attaching to a backpack or car window with the included carabiners or suction cups.
The Renogy excels at keeping your phone, Baofeng UV-5R, or some other type of small device charged without breaking the bank.
For all of $20, it’s hard to beat a solar panel like this.
Just keep in mind that it will take several hours to charge anything when you’re talking about panels this small.
3. BigBlue Foldable 28-Watt Solar Panel
Perhaps one of the most convenient ways for electricity constantly on the go is via a foldable solar panel that slips into a backpack.
For that, consider the BigBlue panel.
I really like this setup for several reasons.
For starters, if you’re looking at packing a bug-out bag for your family, this is a great means of ensuring you keep radios, phones, laptops, or whatever else you might need charged while on the road.
It all weighs just a little over a pound and folds up to the size of a magazine, meaning you can easily carry this with you without sacrificing a lot of “weight space” for other necessities.
Just find a sunny location, unroll the BigBlue, and plug in your devices to the included USB ports. The BigBlue also adopts safeguards to keep it from overcharging your equipment.
When you combine all these factors, you end up with an excellent means of emergency power.
However, just be wary that this one doesn’t include a battery — all it does is charge.
So, if you’re looking for a system that’s also going to store energy, you need to either invest in something else or purchase a battery pack too.
4. Quantum Harvest Model 175
The Quantum Harvest Model 175 brings a larger unit that’s still portable but relies on a car to get around.
I’ve used this setup during some power outages where I live, and I’m thoroughly happy with it.
This kit comes with a 22 amp/hour, 30-watt deep-cycle Absorbed Glass Mat medical-grade battery, and one 30-watt solar panel with a 16-foot-long cord.
It’s a heavier setup, with the battery weighing 25-pounds, while the solar panel tips the scale at 8-pounds.
This generator won’t keep your refrigerator running (tried that); but, it works great for smaller appliances.
To keep the battery charged, plug it into a wall outlet ahead of time or plug in the solar panel.
Looking for a quicker charge than the included 30W solar panel provides? No prob. There’s an extra jack available, meaning that an additional panel easily connects.
The internal inverter is also protected from overheating and features a 30-amp resettable circuit breaker. For those who don’t know, this greatly improves the safety of this system.
After doing a lot of research on emergency solar systems in the past, I appreciate the battery used with this setup.
It can be stored and used in any position, does not give off gases as it charges, doesn’t need water, and there’s zero danger of fire with it.
All of these factors combined leave me feeling comfortable with storing this setup in my house. Total cost for this rig will run you around $450, though.
5. Patriot Power Sidekick
Another cool product from 4 Patriots, the Patriot Power Sidekick, weighs in at 8-pounds and comes with a 40-watt solar panel.
It offers a 300-watt capacity, making it perfect for charging your phones, laptops, radios, medical devices (think a CPAP), and the like.
A compact device, it easily stows away in the trunk of your car for when you need it or tucks into storage in your RV.
The battery is safe to use inside, and the eight various outlets mean you can charge a host of devices at once from it.
It can be completely drained 2,000 times — meaning you’ll get years out of this setup. For all of $500, that’s not a bad deal at all.
6. Rockpals SP003 100 Watt Foldable Solar Panel
If you’re looking for a solar panel only – not a power bank that will store energy – then check out the Rockpals SP003.
Coming in at around $210, this briefcase panel folds for easy storage and transport and can convert 21.5% to 23.5% of solar power into free energy.
Something cool about this panel is it contains a smart IC chip that automatically identifies what type of device you’ve plugged into it.
So, the panel monitors and adjusts how fast it charges to prevent devices from overcharging and becoming damaged.
Pretty practical! And it saves you the expense of buying a solar controller – a device that keeps your equipment from getting too much solar energy when hooked to a solar panel.
The Rockpals is a respectable panel that gets the job done. Just be mindful of what you’re going to do for power on overcast days.
7. Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 500
Jackery is another company well-known for creating quality emergency power stations. The Explorer 500 is no exception to that.
However, if you purchase the Explorer 500, you’re going to have to get a solar panel to go with it.
I recommend adding one of THESE to the setup. The panel is $300, so all in all, you’re talking about an $800 investment to be up and running here.
With this setup, you’ll have a relatively lightweight (13.3-pounds for the generator) emergency solar power station to keep all your devices under 500-watts in use.
No sunshine? The Explorer 500 can be charged up with either a wall outlet or a car charger in 5.5 hours if the sun isn’t available.
So, you have various ways to keep this generator up and running should you end up in a grid-down type environment.
Anytime you’re in a disaster situation, the more layers of security you can add, the better.
The Jackery Explorer 500 helps you to do just that.
But if you’re looking for a Jackery product with even more juice, check out the Explorer 1000. Just know that the Explorer 1000 currently costs $1,000 – a significant price hike that still requires you to buy a panel.
Have you tried the Jackery? If so, rate it below.
8. The Patriot Power Generator 1800
Earning the most expensive slot on the list is the Patriot Power Generator 1800.
Another design by 4 Patriots, this $2,500 solar generator offers up a continuous output of 1,800-watts.
If you’re concerned about losing food in the fridge or freezer, this is the solar generator to invest in. It handles the majority of larger appliances available on the market.
This one does come with its own solar panel — a 100-watt one, to be specific. Many other companies don’t include a panel with their solar generators, so that’s a nice touch.
The 1800 can also store 768-watt hours of power, giving you a lot of energy to stow away within the bowels of this thing.
Word of caution, though, it weighs more than some of the other models on this list. At 35-pounds, you won’t easily tote it around with you.
However, it works well for a bug-out vehicle or even just stowed away in a basement until needed.
If you need to harvest and store a substantial amount of energy without broadcasting your location, this solar generator is well worth the hefty price tag.
9. Goal Zero Yeti 3000x
Goal Zero is easily one of the most famous emergency solar companies out there.
Within various ham radio forums I’ve frequented in the past, this company gets mentioned again and again.
The Yeti 3000x is a big generator, with 2,000-watt-hours. It offers the capability to run seven devices at once and the ability to tackle the big stuff like fridges, freezers, sump pumps…you get the idea.
You keep the whole rig charged up by plugging it into a wall outlet. But this generator does not include a panel. So, if you want to add a solar panel to the mix, you’ll need the Goal Zero Boulder Briefcase (an additional $300).
All in all, it’s a big setup – the panel alone weighs 24-pounds and the generator comes in at a whopping 78-pounds – but it fills the void of something heavy-duty.
Plus, it will help you avoid a lot of headaches after the power goes out.
Power outages will and do happen – they’re a usual occurrence throughout the U.S. So, an emergency solar panel system can easily help you eliminate several problems you’d face when the power goes out near you.
By investing in any of the above devices, you mitigate your risk of disaster post-power — whether that be for a few hours or a few weeks.
Are there other aspects of solar energy capture that you think we should have considered? Let us know in the comments below! Now that you have electricity figured out take a look at how to stay fed with our tips on the Best Way to Store Food Long-Term.