Pow­er­ful So­lar Light Spurring In­come-mak­ing Op­por­tu­ni­ties

Southern Innovator - - CONTENTS -

A clever in­no­va­tor from In­dia has built a highly durable so­lar lan­tern that also dou­bles as a mo­bile phone charger.

“For the size of the lamp, for the num­ber of hours, for the fea­tures we give, in­clud­ing the mo­bile [phone] charg­ing, we are 100 per cent por­ta­ble; it is all in­te­grated,” said Sun­lite rep­re­sen­ta­tive Divyesh Thakkar, while de­mon­strat­ing the lan­tern at the 2012 Global South-south De­vel­op­ment Expo, held re­cently in Vi­enna, Aus­tria.

The Sun­lite lan­tern– the js 30 mob sun­lite -made by Sun­lite so­lar is an LED light packed with clever in­no­va­tions. It is com­pletely self­con­tained and does not re­quire any ex­tra parts, ca­bles or sep­a­rate so­lar panel to charge it. The clever de­sign in­cludes a pop-up, fold-down han­dle, a pow­er­ful so­lar pho­to­voltaic (PV) panel on its top that – with a day out in the sun – charges the lan­tern bat­tery enough to pro­vide around 8 hours of 360-de­gree light when the sun goes down. It is also highly durable and mois­ture- and heat-re­sis­tant and can with­stand a drop on a hard floor.

The man­u­fac­turer of the Sun­lite lan­tern is In­dia Im­pex, which fo­cuses on mak­ing and ex­port­ing high-qual­ity off-grid so­lar light­ing prod­ucts and sees it­self as a “so­cially driven com­pany.” Founded in 2009, it has built up its rep­u­ta­tion as a global ven­dor to hu­man­i­tar­ian and re­lief agen­cies.

The mo­bile phone charg­ing ca­pa­bil­ity has been seized as a great way to turn the lan­tern into an in­come-gen­er­at­ing op­por­tu­nity. Al­ready, peo­ple are form­ing co-ops and charg­ing rent time on the lan­tern for recharg­ing mo­bile phones. And there are a few clever tweaks to the lan­tern to help con­trol this.

“I don’t want this to be abused; I want it to be smart,” said Thakkar. “When some­one comes in and charges the mo­bile phone and for­gets, it is go­ing to cut off af­ter 20 min­utes.”

Sun­lite lanterns have many uses, ac­cord­ing to the prod­uct’s maker. One as­pect that the man­u­fac­turer is em­pha­siz­ing is the im­por­tance of light to the se­cu­rity of women and chil­dren. There is over­whelm­ing ev­i­dence that bet­ter light­ing makes for a more se­cure en­vi­ron­ment and al­lows peo­ple to do more things safely at night. Chil­dren can look out for en­vi­ron­men­tal threats such as poi­sonous snakes and spi­ders, and women and girls can feel safe do­ing things such as go­ing to the toi­let with­out wor­ry­ing that some­body might at­tack them in the dark.

So­lar power is be­ing seen as a way to get elec­tric­ity to peo­ple in ar­eas by­passed by con­ven­tional elec­tric­ity grid net­works. It also helps to move peo­ple away from ex­pen­sive, pol­lut­ing and dan­ger­ous al­ter­na­tives such as diesel gen­er­a­tors, paraf­fin lamps, gas stoves and coal or dung fires.

“We com­pare our so­lar lan­tern to the kerosene lan­tern,” Sun­lite rep­re­sen­ta­tive Sa­gar Me­hta ex­plained. “On a pay­back ba­sis, you use an ap­prox­i­mate of 30 to 40 cents of a US dol­lar of kerosene ev­ery day for a four-hour light. First of all, it is very harm­ful: smoke in­hala­tion, ill­nesses, burns, all sorts of things, se­cu­rity is­sues.

“That will cost a fam­ily one third or half of its in­come on a daily ba­sis. If we can change this around where, if we can make a so­lar lan­tern, where the sun is free, that can pay back in three months and you start earn­ing rathert han pay­ing, [the­yare] mak­ing a liv­ing.”

Sun­lite lanterns are cur­rently be­ing dis­trib­uted to peo­ple in dis­as­ter sit­u­a­tions and also in refugee camps and dis­placed per­sons com­mu­ni­ties. – (De­cem­ber 2012)

• sun­lite-so­lar.com • south­southexpo.org

The Sun­lite So­lar light with handy car­ry­ing han­dle and so­lar panel on top for recharg­ing.

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