TRAVERSE CITY — A local company is shedding new light on alternative energy sources.
Traverse City-based Tellurex Corp. is eyeing sales success with its Standby Station, portable, pocket-sized generators that use solar power to charge phones, tablets and other devices.
Tellurex’s product stable already includes its Enviro-Light, a handheld device that converts heat into electricity for portable lighting by using a simple tealight candle as its source. The new solar-powered generators could be another similarly themed product.
“The idea is that it is a universally charged reserve battery for your mobile device,” said Richard Harmon, Tellurex’s program manager.
The Standby Station is a portable charger the size of an iPhone that’s powered by a lithium battery that acts as a reserve energy source. The device draws its charge from solar power.
Plugging into a computer or electric outlet for four hours also stores two full charges for a mobile device.
The “Field Charger” doubles as a phone case and reserve battery. The charger incorporates the same electronics and solar panel, but is geared toward outdoor usage.
“We saw two very good uses for this,” Harmon said. “It protects your phone and keeps all of the things neatly put together.”
The March 2012 unveiling of the Enviro-Light — manufactured in Traverse City — proved lucrative for Tellurex. Funding was attained through a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, in which monetary donations are pledged by donors. Government grants funded similar projects in the past, but Harmon said it has since proved an unreliable source of income.
The crowdfunding effort raised $113,000 in just 30 days — surpassing a goal of $85,000 — with pre-sales topping 1,300 in one month. The first Enviro-Lights were sold in January 2013 — nine months after initial blueprints had been drawn. But sales of the devices since faded.
“Sales are not as high as we’d like,” Harmon said. “The challenge is getting the consumers aware of the value of the product.”
Harmon hopes the newly released Field Charger and Standby Station — both manufactured outside of the U.S. — will boost sales.
“It’s a great ice fishing tool,” he said. “It works especially well in cold weather.”
Using thermoelectricity as an alternative energy source for practical uses is something Harmon hopes will catch on.
The Enviro-Light applies electricity to an LED lamp without the use of batteries or moving parts. The end result is a light source 20 times more powerful than the candle itself, made possible through conversion of heat to electricity.
“You can get thousands of life cycles out of this,” Harmon said. “The candle is the battery, and that battery has an infinite shelf life. This is power on demand. The energy is stored in the candle and you use it when you want. There is no self-discharge.”
The device can create lighting for larger areas like decks and patios and provide lighting during power outages.
Tellurex sells its products directly to consumers at www.buytpod.com.