Published on February 24th, 2012 | by Charis Michelsen15
Pay-As-You-Go Solar Power for Customers Off the Grid in World’s Youngest Country
UK start-up Eight19 is trying to make a name for itself installing pay-as-you-go solar systems across Africa. Their first venture was in Kenya, and their latest is in the world’s youngest nation of South Sudan.
Eight Minutes, Nineteen Seconds
Eight19 is so named because light from the sun takes 8 minutes, 19 seconds to reach the Earth. The Cambridge-based solar power company has stated its goal as bringing electricity to the 1.7 billion people on the planet living off the grid (as in, no access, not the ones who leave the grid on purpose), and that electricity will be from 100% renewable sources. An investment fund launched last month is expected to expand the roll-out of their primary product, IndiGo.
Chief Executive Simon Bransfield Garth celebrated the company’s successes so far, as reported by Business Green:
“The positive response and widespread interest in IndiGo since we launched it in Kenya six months ago has been fantastic and is fuelling our expansion. We are working hard to deploy our units fast enough to keep up with the demand to further stimulate economic development in the world’s youngest country.”
Eight19 hopes to install 1,000 of their IndiGo systems in the super-new nation of South Sudan (which declared itself a country and made it stick only last July). The IndiGo system includes a battery, a solar panel, lights, and a phone charging device. Users pay for the equipment each week using scratchcards, which they validate through text messages.
The IndiGo system replaces kerosene lamps, at what Eight19 claims is half the cost (not to mention much cleaner). The solar panel can be used to power lights (those in the kit or others), internet connections, and consumer electronics. Thomas Bell, South Sudan director of projects at WorldVenture, embraced the introduction of small localized solar arrays:
“Pay-as-you-go solar is a grass root solution, which is particularly important in South Sudan, where there is a complete lack of infrastructure. IndiGo has the potential to transform the energy market by enabling local energy production meaning that many people can access power without having to wait for the grid.”
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