£380 foldaway sun-powered parasol can charge gadgets as you lounge on the beach

Beachgoers will never have to worry about their mobile phones going dead on a day out again, after a renewable energy expert invented a solar powered umbrella.

The entrepreneur has come up with the Solarbrella, a lightweight fold-away solar panel that fits over a beach umbrella.

It allows people to charge their devices while catching some rays. 

Designer Eric Hawkins, 70, is now looking for an investor so he can get the first 100 produced and start selling them to the general public.

The system generates 25-watt electricity and has two USB cables attached so users can plug in two devices at once or charge up a power bank at the same time as charging their phone.

Unlike standard roof-top solar panels that use crystalline silicon, Mr Hawkins has used a more affordable flexible PET plastic thin film inside a UV protected fabric that fits over a standard parasol.

It folds down into a suitcase so people can easily take it on holiday with them. 
He has also designed a bigger 60-watt Solarbrella perfect for businesses like restaurants and hotels.

The larger model can provide enough energy to run a laptop for 11 hours and has four USB ports so people can power multiple devices at once. 

About his creation, Mr Hawkins said: 'I came up with the idea sort of by accident.

'I've been in the renewable energy field for years and a lot of my work has been out in China.

'I went back to China early last year and saw a company had this flexible new solar technology. 

'I got them to make some samples and changed the voltage and wiring and things.

'Then I had the idea can I box these to make complete portable solar kits? 

I use it to work outside in my garden and it can power my laptop for 11 hours.'
The Solarbrella will be manufactured in Shenzhen, southern China, and then shipped to the UK for distribution. 

Once Mr Hawkins has investment he says it will only take four to six weeks before the first Solarbrellas can be available to the public.

The first 100 customers to contact Mr Hawkins will be able to get the 25-watt Solarbrella and two power bank LED strip lights at a discounted price of £189 ($240) including delivery within the UK. 

Once available in shops the retail price is likely to be about £380 ($489), with the larger model retailing for about £600 ($770).

Mr Hawkins, who left school at 15 and is largely self-taught, got into renewable energy through his plumbing business.

His house in Wimborne, Dorset is a testament to renewable energy with a rainwater harvesting system, LED lighting, a wind turbine, solar panels and a solar central heating and hot water system. 

He added: 'I've gone through life taking risks and looking for opportunities. 
'We've had really hot weather recently and I took it down to the beach in Bournemouth.

'Quite a lot of people were interested and came over to see what it was.

'This product is attracting interest and theoretically there could solarbrellas all over the world, people sitting in hotels, restaurants, gardens.

'I've spent about $4,000 (£3,100) and two months in China, it's all ready to go, I just need an investor.'

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