Editor’s note: for our long-term readers, you know that we’ve covered this low-tech clean energy light bulb solution a couple times before, but it’s always worth another look, I think, so here’s an update. (Extra note: as you can see in the first post linked above, the idea originally came from a Brazilian engineer.)
Think of renewable energy, and you think of high-tech, major projects — wind farms, solar farms, dams. Think of solar energy, and you’re likely to think of banks and banks of high-tech solar panels.
But renewable energy (including solar) doesn’t have to be high-tech. Any technology which harnesses the sun can help improve people’s lives and keep the use of fossil fuels down. And so it is with the solar bulb, a great piece of low-tech kit pioneered in the Philippines by local NGO the My Shelter Foundation.
They call it a ‘Liter of Light.’ Check out this video, and you’ll see why.
40% of the Philippines’ population lives on less than $2 a day, and many can’t afford electricity. Homes are frequently cobbled together from corrugated metal with no windows, leaving Filipinos stuck in the dark even on sunny days.
But the solar bulb changes that – with no consumption of electricity and almost no cost. My Shelter Foundation take a one-liter bottle from a soft drink and fill it with a mixture of filtered water and bleach. They cut a hole in the roof and cement the bottle in place. And as the sun shines, the light is refracted through the bottle and shines out into the room.
Eduardo Carillo, a resident of a poor area in the capital Manila, told the Guardian: “Before we had the bottle light, the walkways to our house were so dark and going inside made it even darker. The children are no longer scared – they are happy now and they laugh because they can play inside during the day instead of playing in the streets.”
Of course, such a simple solution is always going to have downsides, and the solar bulb has a pretty major one – it doesn’t actually store the energy the sun provides, meaning that when it gets dark outside, it gets dark inside too. But while coping with candles or spending a lot of money on electricity to get light in the evening isn’t easy, it’s better than having to do so all day long. And by reducing electricity consumption, the solar bulb is making a small contribution to fighting climate change too.
You can donate to the Liter of Light project here, or to read about how more conventional solar power is transforming the lives of poor people in Bangladesh, read World Bank Bringing Solar Power to Over 1 Million Homes, Shops in Rural Bangladesh.
Rav is a London-based freelance journalist passionate about climate change, development and technology. He has written for the Daily Express, Excite.co.uk and the Fly. He blogs at ravcasleygera.wordpress.com.