As children we were used to hearing our parents say “turn that light off, electricity costs money”. As a parent I hear myself repeating those words. But I am hopeful that this trend will stop with our generation thanks to solar power.
For those who’ve grown up constantly plugged into the power grid, it’s almost impossible to think of life without an endless supply of outlets, power cords, and technology. But for an estimated 1.5 billion people around the world, power—from cutting and burning firewood to lighting kerosene lamps, paraffin, and candles—doesn’t come easy.
If you still think of solar power as some kind of hippie fantasy, think again! Solar power is growing fast, finally.. and not just in a neighbourhood near you. One of my favourite websites, GOOD.is has numerous articles revealing the fabulous work of social entrepreneurs around the world, who have dedicated their talents and efforts to creating a better future for us all.
Below is a selection of great articles from the GOOD website, that highlight the progress being made in solar technology and the great causes being furthered by each invention. Click on any image to go to the original article.
About 1/6 of the world’s population lives without access to electricity. That’s 1.5 billion people. And cell phones are spreading faster than plug-in power. There are about 600 million people who own mobile phones, but don’t have anywhere to charge them.
Mike Lin and Brian Warshawsky find themselves in the unusual but enviable position of having stumbled on an unexpected business hit. The pair set out with a social goal and built a product for poor Ugandans. But the gadget the pair built to help poor Africans without electricity start micro businesses has proven popular with American customers. Their power system for rural Africa makes for a pretty handy camping tool as it turns out.
SolarKiosk: Mobile Modular Power for Really Remote Areas
In an effort to tackle health and development-related obstacles in developing countries, a company based in Germany and Ethiopia is bringing clean energy to “off-grid areas” around the world. Housed in a metal hut topped with a solar panel-filled roof, the designers have named their creation a “SolarKiosk,” a small-scale power source for communities without electricity.
Each SolarKiosk is expected to provide enough power for villagers to charge their mobile phones and car batteries, run a computer, or power up a solar fridge. Goods sold from the Kiosk include solar lanterns, mobile phones, and cards to top-up cellular devices. Considering that the Kiosk’s fridge may be the community’s only one, it could be used to house everything from medication to chilled drinks.
An Affordable, Solar-Powered Lantern Beams in Off-Grid Communities
The aptly named “Little Sun” is a lantern powered by the sun’s natural light designed to fight unequal energy distribution around the world. Part artwork, part social project tackling energy poverty, the bright yellow orb, complete with wavy rays radiating out from the center, looks remarkably like its namesake. Thanks to its small size, the functions are manifold: use it as anything from a table lamp to a bike light. The Little Sun website declares it “a work of art that works in life. It transforms the light that is for all of us into a light that is for each of us.”
Little Sun also provides an alternative to the health risks associated with kerosene lamps. According to UNEP, kerosene lamps used with cow dung release toxic emissions that are directly tied to eye infections, respiratory infections, and lung cancer. Inhaling these emissions is equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day—and a single lamp can emit one ton of carbon dioxide over the course of five years.
Solar Grill Stores Latent Heat for 25-Hour Cook Time at 450F
We’ve seen a DIY solar cooker built from old CDs, and there are already several commerically available solar ovens too. Apparently there is even one solar-powered grill. But we haven’t seen many solar cooking options that can store heat for longer cooking times or hotter temperatures. Until now.
Derek Ham writes over at Barbeque Lovers about a solar-powered grill project he has been working on that uses latent heat storage to both extend cooking times, create hotter temperatures, and reduce the problem of intermittent sun. Based on technology developed by MIT professor David Wilson, the concept is expected to generate cooking temperatures of 450F, and offer up to 25 hours of cooking time.