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The Freeloader Pro puts solar power in your pocket

The Freeloader Pro catching some rays.
The Freeloader Pro catching some rays.

Can’t quite afford the solar panels for your house yet? How about one for your phone? A solar charger is pretty much a battery with some photovoltaic panels attached. You leave it in the sun, that charges the battery, then you plug in whatever needs juice and, presto, you’ve got a green smartphone!

There’s a new one that’s just made its debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas. It’s called the "Freeloader Pro" and it's made by a company called Solar Power International. It takes eight hours to fully charge in the sun, or three if you opt for a larger solar array. Once its lithium ion battery is charged, you can plug whatever you've got into its USB port (it comes with a USB cable and 10 charging adapters).  An iPod, as an example, will run for 28 hours. You can also charge the Freeloader Pro’s battery with an included AC adapter, but that kind of defeats the purpose.

The neat thing about the Freeloader Pro is that it comes with a "CamCaddy," an adjustable dock for charging different sized block batteries. This means that you say things like, “Yeah, the nice thing about my camcorder is that it’s solar powered, but your zoom lens is nice, too.” Last little treat, the company will replace the battery for about $13 after two years—and recycle your old one. After all that, you could clear cut a swath of rain forest and still be considered environmentally conscious. (Don’t though, lots of pretty birds live in those trees.)

CNET has a picture and video, if you want to sneak a peek. ThinkGeek has it for $79.99.