With rapidly increasing efficiency, revolutionary battery designs, and growing interest from key players (more on that here), solar power is poised to fulfill the hopes it has long promised. What is still lacking is an affordable way to bring solar technology to the world’s poorest and most isolated communities.
Without access to clean technologies of reliable (and affordable) electricity, millions of the world’s poorest people use kerosene lamps after the sun goes down. Burning kerosene in areas without proper ventilation has been compared to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day – to say nothing of the environmental effects. Ongoing costs, fire hazards, and storage all cause considerable problems.
Solar is clean, safe, and requires only occasional financial input to replace dead batteries or worn-out equipment. The cost of portable solar chargers and lamps is falling, but not quickly enough for those that really need them. Most devices fall in the $10-20 range, which is often more than a month worth of kerosene. Without a stable income, it’s far easier to pay for small increments of fuel than to save for a major investment.
Karibu Solar Power aims to change that with a modular solar charger and lamp designed to be broken into components. The innovation here isn’t in the device, but in the distribution. Karibu lamps come apart into three sections: the charger, the battery (including mobile phone charger), and the lamp. While these components are available as a whole, customers unable to purchase the device outright have the option of renting the battery and lamp from a local shop on a daily basis. Each day, after the battery is used through the night, the customers bring it back to the shop to be recharged from the solar panel. Each time customers rent the unit, part of the cost goes towards financing the full device. Once the full price of the unit accumulates, the shopkeeper gives them the panel and the household becomes “solar independent”.
Karibu has received widespread praise and support from diverse sources, including the UN’s 2013 SEED award and notable acknowledgements from Harvard University and the Principality of Monaco. With few apparent limitations and the potential for great success, we look forward to following the project’s development.
Thanks to Bill Stewart for the link.