Friday, July 16, 2010

Solar Pebble to provide cheap renewable energy for rural Africans

The Solar Pebble has the potential to provide jobs, hours of LED lighting, and power for small electronic devices for only $2.70. Plus Minus Design partnered with SolarAid, a UK-based NGO that helps provide affordable renewable energy in developing countries, to create a small solar panel device to replace kerosene lamps, the most common form of lighting for people without power.

Kerosene lamps, although widely used, are expensive, unhealthy and dangerous. Breathing in the smoke and fumes from kerosene lamps is the equivalent of smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. Due to their highly inefficient design, kerosene lamps use nearly 100 times more energy than modern lighting systems and require up to 40% of a family's income for sustained use. And because of their glass design they are prone to breaking and causing fires- a person dies every 20 seconds from a kerosene lamp related death.

The Solar Pebble uses a ratchet stand that allows the device to be pointed at the sun to gather energy during the day. It's small design allows for highly efficient use (2 hours of charging provides 1 hour of lighting). It's made from simple parts that can be worked on with basic tools, which allows for easy maintenance when it is being used in rural areas. It is also shipped without being fully built, thereby allowing local people to get in on the profits by assembling it for a small fee. It has small outlets on its side that allow it to charge mobile phones and other small electronic devices. The Solar Pebble is expected to be distributed in Uganda by the end of July.

-Matthew Thwaites