The PowerCube looks like any other shipping container, but after it unfolds its 'wings' you start realizing there's more than meets the eye. Designing for humanitarian relief efforts, the PowerCube is meant to deliver electrical power, purify water and offer WiFi signal to disaster inflicted areas all through harnessing solar power. While the idea is noble and sounds very good, there are still a lot of problem that the system has yet to meet and which, unfortunately, might keep it from becoming a success.
Ecosphere Technologies, the company behind the PowerCube, says its system designed as a flexible solution that delivers solar power to off-grid areas. So far, it comes in three models: 10-foot, 20-foot, and 40-foot shipping containers. The largest installation can provide up to 15KW of power or enough to supply multiple missions, from hospitals and sleeping quarters, to providing water treatment or internet.
Obviously, it's a really neat idea since you get free power anywhere in the world and you don't have to rely on a diesel supply, in the case of the generator alternative. Anywhere, but not anytime unfortunately. When the sun doesn't shine powerfully enough or during night time, the system can't be used. And it doesn't come with any included batteries either. That's alright if you're buying a flashlight, but maybe not that convenient when you need to buy and install your own energy storage 15 Kw system.
This is only scratching the surface. An equivalent diesel generator power system in size would supply anywhere between 600kW and 1.7MW - that's almost 100 times more power density. It's unclear for now, what the company's business strategy is, considering a diesel generator is more reliable, cheaper to buy (excluding gas) and a lot more powerful. The only plus you get from the PowerCube is free solar energy and no emissions or fumes, neither of which cause much concern during a disaster situation. This being said, the concept truly sounds interesting, and I guess there are some particular situations where the PowerCube is the most convenient solution (no gas supply, high solar flux areas). Looking forward to an upgraded version!