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GLOBAL – Those of you living in sunny countries have probably been struck by the thought that solar charging would be a great – and possibly greener – way to charge your phone. In some places, steady electricity is not available, and so this alternative would be especially attractive. Always keen to improve the sustainability of its products, Nokia has launched a new pilot study to see if a solar phone could become a reality soon.

There have been commercial solar-charging products on the market for years, of course. But historically, they’ve been bulky and inefficient. They also don’t work so well in countries less favoured by the weather. But things have moved on: Nokia’s pilot study is looking into the viability of solar-charging panels built right into your phone, and energy will be harvested with these test devices from the Arctic Circle to the Equator.

Christina Korhonen, who is heading up the pilot project, told us that while the utility of solar panels on the roofs of buildings and so forth is already well-established, we don’t know enough yet about whether they can meet the needs of mobile users:

There’s no lack of available solar energy data for permanent installation, but we don’t know how much of that energy could be collected in various different mobile use cases. That’s why we provide users with solar-powered device that includes a recorder like an aeroplane’s black box, to log the availability of solar energy in real life.

But what about those of us in countries where sunlight is more of a scarce resource? And people who mostly keep their mobiles in pockets and bags when they’re not in use? There could still be a case for solar charging – Matti Naskali, the technical lead on the project says:

Low-power charging from a power source that doesn’t provide stable energy flow is called Energy Harvesting. Using a small solar panel to charge the battery is a clear case of Energy Harvesting, because the available power depends very much on use and weather conditions. Normal charge power cannot be provided with a small size solar panel, but using technology to harvest the energy, every bit of available solar power will be collected to the battery.

There are currently four test users. They’re in Kenya, above the arctic circle in Utsjoki, Finland, at a scout camp in Sweden, and on a boat sailing round the Baltic sea. You can read reports from each of the pilots and get more information on the technology behind it from a new solar charging blog, launched today.

They’re using a modified Nokia C1-02 phone, with the rear battery-cover replaced with a solar panel and data loggers to report the effectiveness of the equipment.

Check out the blog at for all the latest updates from the users, as well as information and ideas about solar energy.

Have you had any experience of using solar-charging products for your electronic devices? How did it go?

Image credit: Steven Straiton.