So­lar So­lu­tion to Lack of Elec­tric­ity in Africa

Southern Innovator - - INOVATION -

Af­ter wit­ness­ing the strug­gle that African health clin­ics have to ac­cess elec­tric­ity, a Nairobi, Kenya-based com­pany has de­vel­oped a sim­ple so­lu­tion to en­sure a steady sup­ply of so­lar elec­tric­ity. One De­gree So­lar’s founder, Gau­rav Man­chanda, sells the Bright­box so­lar charg­ing sys­tem for lights, mo­bile phones, tablet com­put­ers and ra­dios.

A full charge can power two light bulbs for 20 hours. Man­chanda told How We Made It In Africa that he has sold 4,000 units of the Bright­box since its launch in Oc­to­ber. • onede­greeso­lar.com • clin­ton­foun­da­tion.org • howwe­madeiti­nafrica.com

He first gained ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing in the West African coun­try of Liberia with the Clin­ton Health Ac­cess Ini­tia­tive. Work­ing at the Min­istry of Health, he found that most health clin­ics op­er­ated with­out elec­tric­ity.

He iden­ti­fied so­lar power as the only vi­able energy source. Try­ing to de­liver fuel to power gen­er­a­tors by the road net­work had two im­ped­i­ments: the diesel fuel was ex­pen­sive and the road con­di­tions were poor.

Af­ter see­ing that large so­lar-pow­ered sys­tems re­quired sig­nif­i­cant main­te­nance and up­keep, he started to ex­plore the pos­si­bil­ity of low-cost and sim­ple-to-use so­lar elec­tric­ity prod­ucts that would be use­ful to com­mu­nity health-care work­ers.

The com­pany’s main prod­uct is the Bright­box, a clev­erly de­signed so­lar charger. A bright or­ange box with a fold­ing, alu­minium han­dle at the top for easy car­ry­ing, it switches on and off sim­ply with a bright red but­ton. It has a wa­ter­proof so­lar panel. The Bright­box has uni­ver­sal ser­vice bus (USB) ports so that mo­bile phones and ra­dios can be plugged in. It is also pos­si­ble to plug in four lights at once us­ing the four out­ports on the side of the box.

The prod­ucts are de­signed to be re­paired us­ing lo­cally sourced parts and can be fixed by lo­cal elec­tri­cians. – (June 2013)

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