Published on October 16th, 2013 | by Silvio Marcacci1
Solving Energy Poverty With Solar Light Bulbs: Nokero Product Review
Can solar-powered light bulbs help end energy poverty for the 1.3 billion people who live without electricity? Maybe, if Nokero has anything to say about it.
The company, whose name is derived from the phrase “no kerosene,” has launched a new series of solar-powered lights designed to replace the use of kerosene and other fuels for lighting, illuminating a brighter future for people in developing countries around the world.
Nokero sent CleanTechnica their N222-Huron and N180-Start lights for review, and we’ve got the details on two products that could empower the world’s poor to replace kerosene with clean solar-powered light.
The Energy Poverty-Kerosene Connection
Before reviewing the products, some background on why they’re important. Energy poverty refers to a cycle where people can’t access or afford reliable energy supplies, and are often forced to burn fossil fuels for simple needs like cooking or lighting at night.
This vicious cycle creates both economic and environmental hardship. Roughly 20% of the world’s population lives without access to electricity according to Nokero, and burning kerosene or other fuels for lighting can cost up to 25% of a household’s income in developing countries.
A single kerosene wick burns an estimated 80 liters of fuel, producing more than 250 kilograms of carbon dioxide per year. Multiply that across the developing world and kerosene lamps emit 270,000 tons of black carbon annually – equivalent to 240 million metric tons of CO2.
Enter solar-powered lighting. Nokero says 1.4 million solar LEDs have been sold in Africa since 2009, with sales growing more than 100% each year. Over 10 years, one solar lantern could replace 600 liters of kerosene and cut 1.5 tons of CO2 emissions, while solar lighting could save up to $800 million in avoided fuel purchases.
That’s the clean energy potential Nokero is trying to unlock. The company was founded in 2010, has sold 500,000 of its products into 120 countries, and works with a network of non-profits to help communities break the energy poverty cycle.
The N222-Huron represents the top-end of solar-powered lighting technology and is designed to serve consumers in both developed and developing markets. Once fully charged, its LED light projects up to 50 lumens (about seven times the brightness of a kerosene lamp) for six hours on high output and up to 15 hours on the low setting.
The N222 features outlets for USB and Nokia-style cords, allowing charging from an outlet and also providing five volts at 0.3 amps to recharge mobile phones – a necessity in locations where cell phones often outnumber working toilets.
I left the N222 outside to charge for a full day, and tested it at night both inside and outside. It puts off an impressive amount of clear white light similar to a wide-field flashlight outside, and lit up the better part of a room while inside.
While I used the included stand to charge the battery, it can double as a wall mount and the light bulb features a hook to allow charging or provide light while hanging on a cable. Nokero estimates the N222’s battery will last for five years if used daily, and it is available for a suggested retail price of $45 US dollars (USD).
If the N222 represents the high-end of solar lighting, the N180-Start is billed as the “world’s most affordable solar light bulb” at just $6 USD. The N180 requires two full days of charging before its first use, but once ready, it shines with a five-lumen brightness for around four hours.
I left the N180 outside for the requisite two days to fully charge, and tested it at night both inside and outside. As expected, it didn’t really provide too much illumination outside, but was a good source of clear white light inside and would be perfect for reading or other tasks by one person.
The N180 is also designed with a hook to charge while hanging from a cable, but I simply laid the bulb on the ground, solar cell up, while charging. Nokero estimates the N180’s battery will last up to two years with regular use.
Even though the N180 LED light may be better suited for personal use and roughly equals the brightness of a kerosene lamp, Nokero estimates it will pay for itself between 15 days and 2 months, depending on the end-user’s income and amount of kerosene used in a household.
Solar Power + Nokero = Clean Lighting
Taken together, the new Nokero products really lived up to their billing and I was personally impressed with how well they worked. I’ve used solar cell products before for phone charging and been disappointed, but that wasn’t the case with these lights. Kudos to the company for using clean energy innovation to try solving one of the world’s thorniest energy challenges.