Most, if not all, of us have ready access to lighting anytime we need it, for as long as we need it, wherever we need it, thanks to a reliable electricity grid and lighting infrastructure in our homes and businesses, along with relatively affordable batteries and battery chargers for flashlights and other portable lighting solutions. But there are still millions of people on the planet for whom basic clean lighting is a luxury, with the only other alternatives being kerosene, candles, or fire, all of which come at a cost, both in terms of money and in air quality, and to whom a clean reliable way to light up a room can make all the difference.
Solar lights can be that clean illumination source in the developing world, and we’ve seen a number of different designs being touted as the answer to some of the issues of energy poverty around the world, with a small solar panel and a battery and LED bulb supplying several years’ worth of clean light. Designing for the off-grid developing world presents a lot of challenges, including the need for rugged and reliable construction that can stand up to the wear and tear of daily use in harsh environmental conditions, but one of the standard criteria is also to have an affordable price to the end user. It’s one thing to build a solar light meant for weekend camping or emergency supplies, with all the bells and whistles included, and to sell it to people who can easily afford what the modern western market will bear, and another thing entirely to build a quality solar light meant to be used day in and day out, from durable materials, at a cost affordable to families who earn US$1.25 or less per day.
Earlier this month, Yingli Europe, a subsidiary of Yingli Solar, announced that through a partnership with an international charity that combats poverty and climate change, SolarAid, it has developed « the world’s most affordable quality solar light, » which has an end cost to buyers in Africa of just $5. The SM100 retails for £10 in the UK, where sales of the solar light will help to underwrite the distribution of two more SM100 lights in Africa for each one sold in the UK.
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