Aussie hotel saves planet from roof

One flip of the switch changed the Crowne Plaza Alice Springs and upped the ante for hotels around the world. The Australia hotel now uses the largest building-mounted solar photovoltaic (PV) system in the Southern Hemisphere. This $3.3 million installation will cut the property’s energy consumption by 40 percent to 80 percent (depending on the time of year), and a broader energy efficiency program could trim the energy the hotel uses by an additional 18 percent.

The hotel’s new green initiative involves the installation of “Energy Eye,” new technology that manages temperatures in guest rooms and minimizes consumption when a room is empty. Further, the Crowne Plaza Alice Springs is replacing more than 3,000 light bulbs with energy efficient alternatives. Jemflo showerheads are expected to save 11,580 kiloliters of water every year. Translation: that’s enough to fill more than 30 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

The Crowne Plaza Alice Springs’ energy program includes the use of live data from the rooftop solar panels to show guests how much hotel is saving at any particular point in the day … on their in-room televisions.

Product review – Solio Magnesium edition hybrid battery charger

We’ve covered Solio before here on Gadling, so when they announced their most advanced charger ever, I just had to take it for a spin.

The new Solio Magnesium edition hybrid charger features a 3-panel solar charger. AC charging option and the ability to charge USB powered devices as well as any device covered by one of the thousands of options offered by the addition of iGo power tips.

The package comes very complete – the charger, an AC adapter with an assortment of international plugs, a female USB charging cable, an iGo charging cable, a bag full of iGo tips, a hemp carrying bag, and a pencil (more on the pencil later).

Before using the Solio, you bring its battery to 100% using the AC adapter, then when you are off the beaten path, and away from good old AC power, you give it a clear view of the sun, and it recharges itself. To charge your gadgets, you simply plug them into the miniUSB port on the side, using the female USB cable, or one of the included iGo tips. If none of the included tips fit your device, you can order the correct one from

So, how well does it work? I decided to use the Solio to keep my phone powered for a week, and it really did perform quite well.

On Sunday, I topped it up to 100% using the AC charger, and every night I’d charge my phone. In the morning, I placed it outside on a table. It was at that point I finally discovered what the pencil is for – it lifts the charger up to the right angle. Of course, had I actually sat down to read the manual, I would have known this all along.

Each night, I pressed the power button, and most nights, the green LED light would flash 5 times, an indication that the battery was back to 100%. Thanks to the power of the sun, I was keeping my phone going without any need for AC power.

The Solio magnesium edition is not cheap – at $169.95 I’d even say it is pretty expensive. But if you travel places where regular and reliable AC power is a luxury, it may be worth the money. The kit is very complete and once inside its carrying case, the entire package weighs just 9oz (265 grams), which is extremely light when you consider that includes the AC charger and an assortment of international plugs and power tips.

There are a couple of downsides to the Solio Magnesium Edition – to charge it, you need a lot of sun. The 2 times I had a cloudy day meant that the charger did not reach 100%, this isn’t a big issue if you travel to a nice sunny location, but don’t expect to generate a lot of power in places with less than decent weather.

Also, the device sometimes had a hard time powering my more hungry gadgets – an iPod or iPhone is just fine, but when I tried to top off my backup battery pack, nothing happened. The amount of power you can suck out of the Solio Magnesium edition is about 1800mAh, which is about enough for a 100% charge of an iPhone. If you completely drain the Solio, you’ll need at least 2-3 full sunny days to get it back to 100%.

The Solio Magnesium edition is available directly from Solio, or one of their retail partners.

Daily deal – Soldius 1 universal solar battery charger for $14.99

My daily deal for today is for the Soldius 1 universal solar powered battery charger. This pocket sized solar charger comes with an assortment of universal power “tips” for charging many commonly used devices like the iPod, Blackberry smartphones and most Nokia, Motorola, SonyEricsson, Samsung and Siemens phones.

Included in the package is also a female USB power tip, so you can use almost any power cable that has a regular USB plug.

The device is currently on sale for just $14.99, but supplies are limited. The Soldius solar charger comes in black or white, but you don’t get to pick the color you are shipped.

To get a full charge for your device, you’ll need to be in direct sunlight, and it may take several hours to reach 100%, but at $15 you really do get a great little charger, and you won’t have to worry about charging it. will even ship it for free.