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Published on January 31st, 2014 | by Derek Markham


$5 Solar Lamp To Fight Fuel Poverty

January 31st, 2014 by  

Originally published on Ecopreneurist.

solar light

Sometimes, it’s the simplest things that can make a big difference in people’s lives, and this affordable solar light falls right in line with that, as it involves something we take for granted (a safe way to illuminate a home after dark), but which is a luxury in many parts of the developing world.

Here in the west, all we need to do is flip a switch, and we’ve got a cheap source of light that doesn’t pollute our home and that can provide plenty of time after dark to prepare meals, complete homework, read, enjoy our family or loved ones, or do our daily chores.

But that’s not the case in many areas, where the only viable source of light may be a kerosene lamp, which is not only unhealthy to burn indoors, and a possible safety hazard, but also requires a constant supply of relatively expensive fuel to operate. And while many different versions of solar lanterns and solar lighting options are available, not many of them are affordable to a family living in poverty, which is why this $5 solar light could have a big positive impact on the lives of those who use them.

The MiniSun12H, developed by the NGO SunLife, is a affordable, durable, solar-powered light capable of providing 12 hours of light from 8 hours of charging. At the cost of just $5, this solar light is cost-competitive with a kerosene lantern, with the added advantage of never needing to be refueled with expensive and dirty kerosene in order to use it.

“The dangers of kerosene lamps are very real. The World Bank estimates that 780 million women and children breathing kerosene fumes inhale smoke equivalent to 2 packs of cigarettes every day. 60% of adult female lung-cancer victims in developing nations are non-smokers. These fumes kill an estimated 1.5 million women and children in Africa every year. The kerosene needed for the lamps is a constant burden on the household income for these very poor people.” – SunLife

The MiniSun12H solar light project, which is currently raising money through a crowdfunding campaign, can not only serve as a “village light bulb” with its clean and renewable illumination, but because of its low cost, could also serve to enable its users to save money for additional lights or other appropriate technology tools, and to put money back in their pockets, month after month.

MiniSun12H has been designed from the ground up after years of tinkering! It’s manufactured from robust materials and simple enough to ensure it remains cost-effective while delivering ample bright, safe task light for 4 hours, and 8 further low-light hours.

  • 5.5cm x 5.5 cm 0.2W solar PV panel
  • UV resistant plastic case
  • Bright LED light
  • Requires 8 “tropical sun” hours to charge.
  • 2 light settings: bright “task” light + night light
  • 12 hour discharge (4 task + 8 night light hours)
  • Design life of 3 years.
  • ROI against kerosene purchase approx. 1 month
  • Metal hanging arm.
  • Plastic “S” hook and nylon string for hanging.

If you’d like to see this affordable solar light get launched and field-tested in a big way, and eventually get into the hands of those who most need them, see the MiniSun12H Indiegogo campaign or the website for more information 
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About the Author

Derek lives in southwestern New Mexico and digs bicycles, simple living, fungi, organic gardening, sustainable lifestyle design, bouldering, and permaculture. He loves fresh roasted chiles, peanut butter on everything, and buckets of coffee. Catch up with Derek on Twitter, Google+, or at his natural parenting site, Natural Papa!

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