Have you ever been in a situation where your phone charge is draining quickly and an outlet is nowhere in sight? It's a problem many of us have dealt with but something that may soon become a problem of the past.
Soon, you may turn to solar energy to charge your devices thanks to improving technology and falling costs for solar products.
Solar products coming from an unusual place
One of the emerging leaders in solar products is Goal Zero, a solar product start-up recently acquired by NRG Energy (NYSE:NRG). The company sells small solar panels, energy storage units, and other accessories that make it possible to use electronic devices without plugging in to the grid.
NRG Energy may not be a name you might think of when it comes to solar products, but this is part of a transformation the company is making into a solar powerhouse. It is one of the largest utility scale solar plant owners in the country, recently bought a residential solar installer, and now owns a solar product maker.
For Goal Zero, the huge balance sheet at NRG Energy will allow the company to expand into new products and markets without having to constantly search for funding.
What the future of solar products could look like
Goal Zero isn't the only company looking to bring solar energy to products it sells. Ford (NYSE:F) is working with SunPower (NASDAQ:SPWR) to build the C-Max Solar Energi, a concept car that incorporates solar panels into the roof. Earlier this year, I calculated that the solar panels alone could power the car for more than 2,000 miles.
Products like solar keyboards, lights, and battery systems are starting to pop up. But the industry has its sights on even bigger products. Companies, universities, and research organizations are now testing solar cells on aircraft, boats, roadways, windows, and many other surfaces. Someday, solar cells being incorporated in our everyday devices may be a common occurrence.
Still a long way to go
A decade from now, I think solar energy generation will be a part of our everyday life, whether it's in the form of solar cells on car rooftops, smartphone cases, or as an auxiliary device that can charge all of our electronic devices. Right now, the industry is just starting to understand the potential of solar powered products but it's a multi-billion dollar industry waiting to be explored.
SunPower is a logical choice to gain a large amount of market share in the solar products market. It makes the world's most efficient solar cell -- which is important when space is limited -- and its cells are more durable and flexible than silicon competitors. Its work with Ford, Planet Solar, and electric car races show that it's working to grow in this area.
NRG Energy may not be such a logical choice to play a big role in the future of solar products, but it has made investments that tell me it'll be a big player in this arena for years to come.
Travis Hoium manages an account that owns shares of Ford and SunPower and personally is long shares and options of SunPower. The Motley Fool recommends Ford. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford and NRG Energy. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.