solar powered hearing aidsThere are 466 million people in the world who are deaf or living with disabling hearing loss, which amounts to more than 1 in 20 people worldwide. The majority of these people do not have the funds to buy hearing aids and the batteries required to keep them going. Currently, there are two companies pioneering solar-powered hearing aids in order to help those living in poverty to afford and power hearing aids.

Poverty and Hearing Aids

Approximately 89 percent of those who are hearing impaired live in low and middle-income countries. However, the production of hearing aids currently only meets around 10 percent of the need worldwide. Because traditional hearing aids are expensive, the majority of these hearing aids are going to those who can afford them. This typically means that people in developing countries are going without.

Traditional hearing aids typically cost around $1,000 and have an average battery life of only one to two weeks. Because of this huge financial barrier, solar-powered hearing aids are dramatically changing the accessibility of hearing aids for low-income people in developing countries. Even more importantly, they are cheaper and last longer than traditional hearing aids.

Godisa Technologies was a Botswana-based non-governmental organization (NGO) that began research on the solar-powered hearing aid in 1992. Godisa Technologies aimed to manufacture hearing aids that were accessible to those with hearing disabilities in Africa and throughout the developing world. Godisa Technologies shut down in 2008 due to a lack of funding, but its research led to two companies pioneering solar-powered hearing aids. Solar Ear and Deaftronics provide inexpensive and long-lasting hearing aids all across the developing world.

Solar Ear

Solar Ear is a solar-powered hearing aid company based out of Brazil. Solar Ear’s hearing aid was designed by Howard Weinstein, a former Peace Corps volunteer at Godisa Technologies. These hearing aids only cost around $100 and have a battery lifespan of around three years, which is approximately one-tenth of the price of traditional hearing aids for 150 times the lifespan.

Solar Ear designs their hearing aids specifically for young children living in regions without access to deaf education. Their mission is to provide solar-powered hearing aids to children before the age of three so that they can learn to communicate and receive an education alongside their hearing peers. The hearing aids are manufactured and produced by people with disabilities in Brazil, Botswana and China. They are now available in more than 40 countries.

Deaftronics

Deaftronics is another company pioneering solar-powered hearing aids. Deaftronics was created in 2009 by Tendekayi Katsiga, another former employee of Godisa Technologies. Katsiga, like Weinstein, knew that Godisa’s hearing aids were still too expensive for many people to afford and wanted to build a company that took this technology a step further.

Deaftronics provides solar-powered hearing aids along with four rechargeable batteries for $200. These hearing aids have an overall lifespan of up to twelve years. By 2015, Deaftronics had already sold more than 10,000 hearing aids to people in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Kenya, South Africa and Angola. But, Katsiga became convinced that solar-powered hearing aids alone could not be the only solution to hearing loss. In an attempt to provide a cheap and easy way to catch hearing loss early and prevent it from worsening, Deaftronics has also produced a mobile app that allows people to test for early signs of hearing loss.

Solar powered hearing aids have become readily accessible in many developing countries due to the dedication of Solar Ear and Deaftronics. These two companies pioneering solar-powered hearing aids have changed the world for those who previously could not afford them. The technology has been crucial in making hearing aids accessible to the world’s poor. Thanks to solar-powered hearing aids, children who would otherwise be unable to learn to talk or communicate are able to go to school and learn regardless of where they live or how much money their families have.

Macklyn Hutchison

Photo: Flickr

Solar power in Developing countries
Since its inception 45 years ago, the Barefoot College has trained 1430 people from poor communities to install and maintain solar-powered electrical systems. This was mainly started with the aim of introducing solar power in developing countries.

The most remarkable fact of this program is that all of the students in the solar engineering program are women and they enter with absolutely no prior formal education. These solar engineers return to their villages with a sense of opportunity and independence not only for themselves but also for the community at large.

The founder of the program, Bunker Roy, recognized that the people living in the poor communities are immeasurably knowledgeable about the world around them and the needs of their people. Roy’s vision to bolster the use of solar power in developing countries started with the construction of the first Barefoot College in Tilonaia, India in 1977. It now operates in 100 countries around the globe and 15 states throughout India.

Impact of the Barefoot Program in Afghanistan

According to ALCS 2016-17 survey, only 26 percent of the population in Afghanistan had access to the electrical grid in the years 2011-12. In five years, that number got increased by five percent with around 31 percent of the population enjoying access to the grid. Yet, this access was heavily concentrated within urban areas. The majority of the people living in rural regions of Afghanistan were still yearning to come out of the dark.

The idea of Barefoot College – to enhance the use of solar power in developing countries – became a boon for many in the rural areas. In 2007, merely 2 percent of the households in Afghanistan were powered using solar panels. Today, that same figure has reached 59.4 percent at a national level and 73.2 percent in rural areas. While it’s impossible to tell how much of this success can be attributed directly to Barefoot College, Bunker Roy and his colleagues have undoubtedly made a significant impact.

In his 2011 TEDTalk, Roy shared the story of three illiterate Afghan women who had never left their homes. They came to India and trained to become solar engineers. On returning to Afghanistan, they electrified 100 villages, set up workshops and trained 27 more women to follow their footsteps.

One of the three women, a 55-year-old named Gul Bahar, provided solar electricity to 200 houses herself. She also took the opportunity to educate the head of a large engineering department in Afghanistan on the difference between AC and DC.

Today, more than 84 engineers have been trained by the graduates from Barefoot College to provide a fundamental service to thousands of Afghans in need. Afghanistan is now well on its way to becoming a fully electrified country with 97.7 percent of households having access to electricity. The difference between the electrification of rural and urban homes is also quickly disappearing.

Impact of the Barefoot Program in Honduras

Access to electricity in urban areas of Honduras has reached 100 percent, but one-quarter of the people living in rural areas are still living without it. These same areas are also subject to extreme poverty, severe droughts, and increasing uncertainty in the agricultural industry. Without access to electricity, families are dependent on kerosene lamps that provide poor light, emit toxic chemicals when burned and increase the risk of fire outbreaks.

With help from the Indian Government and the Small Grants Program (SGP), Barefoot College sought to improve the dire situation that the agrarian communities of Honduras find themselves in. Four women from different corners of Honduras were chosen to travel to the original Barefoot College campus in Tilonia, India. Iris Marlene Espinal, Carmen Lourdes Zambrano Cruz, Alnora Casy Estrada and Ingrid Miranda Martinez came to the campus without knowing how to read or write. However, through their practical knowledge, strong will and rugged resourcefulness, they returned home as solar engineers.

These four women have successfully installed 207 85-watt solar panel systems that power lamps, televisions, radios and cell phones for 54 families across Honduras. Without this new technology, the children of a small village called Los Hornos were unable to study indoors even during the day and were showing signs of respiratory issues. To further improve the quality of education for young children in Honduras, the engineers are installing solar systems in schools. The teachers there can now utilize modern technological tools in their lessons.

Seemingly small, incremental changes, like the introduction of solar power in developing countries, have massive implications for the quality of life in poor communities. As Alorna Casy stated in an interview with the UNDP, “We brought back a lot of knowledge to benefit our communities and, in a sense, to help them to escape from poverty”.

Enhancing Access to Solar Power in Developing Countries

In 2016, Barefoot College began the Pacific Island Solar initiative and is still working toward the initial goal of providing new technologies to 2,800 houses across 14 Pacific Island Countries. To date, 10,000 solar installations have already been completed and the construction of a Barefoot College located in Fiji has been approved. The institution is, thus, unstoppable in its mission to revolutionize the use of solar power in developing countries.

The new campus will provide solar engineering training alongside courses in Digital Technology Skills, Financial Literacy and Inclusion, Environmental Stewardship, Women’s Reproductive Health and Nutrition, Micro-enterprise Skills and much more.

Bunker Roy built his first college with the help of 12 “barefoot architects” who couldn’t read or write. Since then, the institution continues to empower those who lack resources but are intelligent enough and in desperate need of a future that fully utilizes their potential. Thus, the idea of enhancing access to solar power in developing countries will definitely spread light in many more dark corners of the world.

John Chapman
Photo: Flickr

Solar Energy in Bangladesh
Solar energy in Bangladesh is becoming more and more mainstream. In a country reliant on fossil fuels to produce most of its energy, solar grids and solar-powered water pumps are helping farmers save money and economy to develop in the right way.

Bangladesh Energy Sector

Bangladesh primarily uses fossil fuels to constitute their energy sector. Natural gas accounts for 75 percent of primary commercial energy supply. The country has become increasingly more dependent on natural gas. Natural gas consumption has increased by 300 percent between 1992 and 2012.

Bangladesh also relies heavily on oil, using primarily refined and unrefined petroleum fuels. About 45 percent of the country’s total oil consumption is consumed in the transportation sector and 21 percent is used for irrigation.

The total yearly production of power in the country is 423 megawatts. Out of this number, renewable energy sources only make up 3.5 percent of total energy production.

The country’s renewable energy policy aimed to achieve the situation in which 5 percent of the energy produced yearly would come from renewable energy sources by 2015. Only 3.5 percent of the energy produced in 2015 came from renewables. The country set up a new goal and plans to generate at least 10 percent of renewable electricity in 2020.

Solar Energy in Bangladesh

As of 2017, Bangladesh has the world’s largest Solar Home System (SHS), with about 5 million SHS in the country. The organization leading the charge in developing this technology is Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL), which has been developing SHS technology for Bangladesh since 2003.

The organization has been producing an estimated 65,000 SHSs per month. Since Bangladesh adopted SHS in 1996, over 30 million people have directly benefited from solar energy, resulting in 100,000 new jobs being created. Bangladesh has over 300 days of sunlight a year, making it a prime destination for solar technology.

Bangladesh has also been investing in solar irrigation pumps. The country plans on replacing the 1.3 million irrigation pumps currently running on diesel with solar, with 617 already been installed as of 2017. It is estimated that replacing all of the diesel water pumps will generate 10,000 megawatts of solar energy.

Improvements in Solar Energy

In 2015, SkyPower announced they would be investing $4.3 billion in utility-scale solar energy over the next five years. Over those five years, the company will also be gifting 1.5 million SkyPower Home solar kits to people living in Bangladesh. The Chief Commercial Officer of Skypower said that the investment will create more than 42,000 total job years and 500 MW of fabrication and assembly facilities.

It was announced in July 2017 that the Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority (BEZA) planned to develop a solar power zone in the Chandpur district, with the target of generating at least 1,000 megawatts of electricity. The plan will be implemented on approximately 4,000 acres of land that will be the country’s largest hub for solar power.

The BEZA chief said in an interview with the Dhaka Tribune that a major percentage of the electricity generated through this would be supplied to the national grid to help meet the growing demand for electricity.

Bangladesh currently produces 1,379 megawatts of electricity, and the government aims to generate 24,000 megawatts of power by 2021 and 60,000 megawatts by 2041.

Solar energy in Bangladesh is being developed at a rapid rate and will continue to constitute more of the country’s energy production. With year-round sunshine and cost-efficiency in mind, solar power is the answer to this country’s energy needs.

Casey Geier
Photo: Flickr

Solar Power in Kenya
Solar Power in Kenya is helping farmers in this Eastern African country sustain agriculture and save money. Solar-irrigation makes perfect sense in Kenya, considering the low rainfall and ample sunshine in the country.

Solar Project

East and Central Africa’s largest solar power plant will soon be completed in Kenya and will be producing 54.64 megawatts of electricity into the national grid. This is the first time Kenya will develop a major solar power plant to harness the abundant solar energy available in the country in order to reduce energy costs.

The objective of this project funded by the World Bank is to increase access to electricity services in underserved counties in Kenya. The solar project is intended to achieve the government’s objective under Vision 2030 that aims to transform Kenya into an industrialized middle-income country.

It is estimated that four out of five families in Africa depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, but only 4 percent of families utilize irrigation and instead rely on scarce rainfall. Switching to irrigated agriculture increases yields up to 90 percent when compared to rain-fed farms, but high diesel costs make irrigation unaffordable for smallholder farmers.

Solar-powered Water Pumps

In 2015, the USAID funded Kenya Smallholder Solar Irrigation (KSSI) project. Two solar-powered water pumps were distributed to two farmers over a three month period as a test for the project validity. The study concluded that one farmer could expect an increase in gross profit of 350 percent after paying off a 22-month loan, and the other farmer was projected to have a 235 percent increase after paying off a two-year loan.

The Co-Operative Bank Foundation is partnering with the MasterCard Foundation on a program that will attempt to distribute loans to about 2,500 Kenyan farmers over the next three years. The initiative will be rolled out through some of the bank’s 12,000 cooperatives that distribute loans to members using a group repayment approach. The Co-Operative Bank Foundation will also use the program to educate farmers about financial literacy and how to utilize technology for their own financial needs. These funds will be directed toward pump fundings.

The world’s first solar-powered water pump with a five-year warranty was launched in October 2017, in Kenya. This pump is called SF2 pump and it is capable of delivering up to one liter of water per second. It is smaller, more powerful, more robust and remotely monitored in comparison to standard water pumps. The SF2 can deliver up to a liter of water every second, and lift it up 30 feet vertically. This provides a farm with over 21,000 liters of water per day, whilst avoiding any fuel costs.

Future Plans

Kenya is prepared to spend $2.1 billion on electrification in rural areas focusing on renewable powered mini-grids. As part of the nation’s 2016-2021 strategic plan, the Rural Electrification Authority (REA) aims to install around 450 mini-grids powered by solar sources. It is estimated that about 25,000 to 30,000 solar PV products are traded annually in the Kenyan market and that at least every household has owned at least one solar PV product.

Solar Power in Kenya is being implemented at a fast rate and will continue to save farmer’s money spent on irrigation and fuel costs. The efforts to give loans to farmers to buy solar-powered irrigation pumps is a smart investment to help thousands of farmers save money.

 – Casey Geier
Photo: Flickr

Solar-PoweredLimited access to clean water and sanitation lies at the center of a litany of poverty-related issues. Without adequate access to clean water and sanitation, low-income communities are at a severe disadvantage in the fight against poverty. Everyone, but especially their young and elderly fall prey to waterborne diseases, and countless school days are lost due to children being sick or having to fetch water.

In many low-income communities, this issue is only compounded by aging or inadequate water and sanitation infrastructure. Replacing or updating these intricate water systems requires both government initiative and an enormous amount of funding, which creates a difficult hurdle to overcome in the fight for adequate global access to clean water and sanitation.

The Gates Foundation Challenge

In response to this crisis, in 2011, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation issued the “reinvent the toilet challenge”, a competition where a variety of research groups vied to propose a new, self-contained wastewater treatment system design. A small team of chemists from Caltech was awarded first place, and, like the rest of the finalists, was awarded a $400,000 grant to continue their work in solar-powered sanitation solutions. 

This new toilet design relies on a series of electrochemical reactions to both sterilize and break down the waste, and in turn, produce hydrogen, which is released into the air. The entire system can effectively sterilize and recycle water so that it can be re-used for toilet flushing or hand washing while being powered only by solar energy. Overall, the solution combines both sustainability and reliability in one compact package.

“So it’s a closed loop system, and it can be powered by solar panel, so the whole thing can be off the grid. (…) because it can be off the grid, it’s really well suited for the developing world”, said Cody Finke, a Ph.D. candidate in electrochemistry working with the team.

The Future of Sanitation

This emphasis on independence bypasses the necessity of infrastructural support, meaning with the use of the technologies present in these futuristic toilets, the government of low-income nations could potentially provide sanitary bathrooms to its citizens without investing billions of dollars in a clean water infrastructure updates.

Although side-stepping billion dollar infrastructure investments is important, it’s not the only challenge at play when it comes to solar powered sanitation solutions. “One of the other things that’s a challenge is if you put a complex technology in the field, often the infrastructure and access to education and to skilled labor isn’t there to repair it when it breaks”, Finke said, in discussing the challenges that complex water treatment technologies face.

So, alongside the toilet’s self-sustaining construction, Finke and the rest of the team are committed to making the toilet modular easy to repair. In conjunction with developing improved electrochemical catalysts that aid in low-impact water sanitation, the team has been building an app “Seva” that works alongside the toilet systems. The app, which can be installed on low-cost smartphones, provides its users with easy-to-understand updates on the inner workings of the system, and step-by-step, pictorial repair instructions should the system malfunction.

Cost Concerns Are Causing Minor Setbacks

Today, somewhere between 30 and 40 prototypes are operational or being installed in low-income countries, which will have an impact on the lives of about 1,000 people, give or take. Despite growing interest in solar-powered sanitation solutions, the market is still small; therefore, production costs remain high. 

Regardless of some of the setbacks, this technology is a valuable contribution to the world of clean water technologies. “You can make the argument that there are different wastewater treatment technologies for different purposes, so I imagine that there’s definitely going to be a blend between our technology and other technologies [in the future]”, said Finke, in consideration of the future of his team’s technology.   

With the support of a growing number of business partners and The Gates Foundation, this treatment could still be the next big thing in renewable toilet technologies. With innovative people working together, we are coming up with ways to alleviate poverty by providing clean water and sanitation to developing countries. Hopefully, financial solutions will be made available to start implementing some of these projects on a larger scale.

– Ian Lloyd Greenwood

Photo: Flickr

Cryptocurrency provides access to energyAccess to energy is necessary for daily life in most countries in the world. Electricity allows for economic development and innovation as well as securing basic human rights such as health and security. However, there are more than 1 billion people living without access to energy.

Solar Power and Cryptocurrency

One negative effect of not having secure and affordable access to energy is the expenditure that goes into coal. This leads to impoverished people being forced to buy expensive coal which further leads to environmental and health problems.

As a response to the scarcity of energy, the International Energy Agency confirmed that decentralized energy systems such as solar power would be the lowest cost option for electrification across sub-Saharan Africa due to its geographical location as well as the accessibility and practicality of the solar panels. With solar power, impoverished communities could use the electricity from solar panels to improve education, healthcare and socioeconomic developments.

Crytoeconomy Fueling Solar Energy Initiatives

This is where The Sun Exchange, a solar micro-leasing marketplace, and Powerhive, a rural mini-grid solutions provider, are partnering up to use crypto-economy to create a fully decentralized, blockchain-based global economic system that could distribute the full potential of solar power to impoverished people.

Sun Exchange states its purpose as buying solar cells and leasing them to schools and businesses in areas with a lot of sunlight. Fortunately, this lines up perfectly with the sub-Saharan region of Africa. Powerhive states that its purpose is to develop off-grid utility solutions to create a future where everyone has access to energy.

“Together, we are working towards a world where no one is forced to cook with unsafe kerosene or wood-burning stoves, no child has to worry about how they will study after dark, and lack of energy access ceases to propel cycles of poverty,” said Abraham Cambridge, Founder and CEO of Sun Exchange. “Our partnership with Powerhive underscores the SUNEX token sale opportunity to support a crypto project geared directly towards reducing global inequality and climate impact.”

For example, the new joint initiative plans to fund up to 150 new Powerhive rural mini-grid projects which will provide access to energy for 175,000 people in Kenya.

“At the heart of our projects are the communities we serve,” said Christopher Hornor, Founder and CEO of Powerhive. “By providing the power platform first and then layering in productive use programmes, we create a virtuous cycle of economic and personal empowerment that provides steady profits for both our customers and our investors. Our partnership with Sun Exchange will now give almost anyone the opportunity to invest in innovative low-carbon development projects in Africa and beyond.”

This partnership allows for the international community members to help improve lives across the world and make a small profit. This is possible because through Sun Exchange, individuals across the globe are able to purchase and own remotely-located solar projects set up by Powerhive.

The buyer would now earn a return for the power generated by his or her solar asset while the energy would undeniably improve the life of whoever received that energy in rural Africa. Also, because the payments are done through cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin, there are no complications that result from international transactions.

Hornor sums up this partnership as a positive step towards the future for renewable energy and universal access to energy. “The crypto-economy is the best tool we have to fight poverty, hands down. Our customers are hard-working people who have been excluded from the global economy. Now, we are able to bring them onto a platform of modern, clean power and to offer support for new businesses and opportunities for personal and intellectual enrichment.”

– Jenny S. Park
Photo: Flickr

Indian Village Powered by the Sun
The words “energy crisis” are more common and less panic-inducing than ever before. In life, days for most people end the same way they begin 
― by flipping the light-switch.

Solar Initiatives and Climate Change

The National Solar Initiative was a global contribution in one of many efforts to combat the slippery slope of climate change. The 2008 initiative was created by the United States government with several targets in mind, one of which included solar power.

According to the National Action Plan on Climate Change, “India is a tropical region where sun is available for longer hours per day with great intensity,” so India had seen a reason to establish responsible and smart change. Also, another global agreement for change include the Paris Agreement signed in 2016, which sought to curb rising global temperatures by 1.5 degrees Celsius. Since these action plans, India has taken strong global action in becoming one of the leaders in alternative energy sources.

History of Diu

The village of Diu, an island in western India, is quaint compared to its neighboring counterparts. With a population of 50,000 people, Diu is now known as the Indian village powered by the sun and provides electricity for some of India’s poorest populations.

Mostly known for its holiday tourism, Diu became a territory in 1987, and is one of seven Union territories located in India. While 60 percent of Indian poverty is located on the eastern side of the country, alternative energy sources will continue to aid economic growth in Diu. Data for Gujarat, India (just above Diu) indicates that although the state is heavily manufacture-based, the nation never managed to reach economic growth.

Energy Implications

Despite this status, strong new data suggests many positive implications regarding higher living standards. The first is increased local communication. Solar power in Diu has established communication and economic relations with its neighboring state, Gujarat, due to the fact that most night-time energy stems from this ally.

In 2017, Diu imported only 26 percent of its electricity from Gujarat; the other 73 percent came from their own solar power. Such communication and negotiation is useful for global trade advancements in the future.

Alternative energy has also provided education. Non-governmental organizations — such as The Barefoot College — train and educate solar engineers. The students go on to repair solar lighting and heat in an effort to increase electrification, which is especially helpful in rural areas similar to the Indian village powered by the sun.

Perhaps the most positive ramification to modernizing electricity is the exponential economic effect. According to The World Bank, global powerhouses would be able to focus more attention on alternative sources in places like Diu by ending fossil fuel subsidies. Furthermore, researchers would have more access to data regarding the benefits of solar energy alleviating poverty.

What Do the Panels Look like?

The answer to this question lies within the middle of India’s Eastern hills. The expansive panels cover almost 50 acres, and fuel all of the village’s daytime power needs. With a smaller population, 10.5 megawatts (MW) of energy are created but only 7 MW are used; thus, rapid population growth is a proven problem. Fortunately, though, generating greater resources allows the population to both increase and receive adequate power.

By 2019, the Indian village powered by the sun will welcome wind power to the island. The government will create 6.8 MW of wind power that will then be used for day and night energy.  

Change On the Horizon

With other alternative energy sources on the horizon, it’s safe to say that Diu will no longer be the only Indian village powered by the sun. Diu, and many other countries in 2019 will take on the needed role of environmental leaders with exciting new sources of energy.

– Logan Moore
Photo: Flickr

solar-powered appliancesElectricity is difficult to come by in sub-Saharan Africa, India and other places in the world. In 2016, an estimated 588 million people in sub-Saharan Africa and 239 million people in India were without electricity. Slowly, more people are gaining access to electricity, specifically through solar-powered appliances and lighting.

Current Issues with Electricity

A lot of the rural cities or areas do not have electricity because they are not nearby to an electricity grid. People in Tanzania, like Lusela Murandika, power TV sets with diesel generators and other parts of their homes with charcoal, wood and other biomass.

Using resources like coal, charcoal, dung or wood as a source of electricity pollutes the breathable air that is needed to survive. According to the World Health Organization, 3.8 million people a year die from illnesses that are tied to air pollution.

Kerosene used in lamps is also a dangerous product to use. It produces soot and toxic smoke that “damages lungs and causes other serious health problems,” according to National Geographic. The use of kerosene lamps, especially ones that are homemade, are dangerous because thousands of children and adults die or are burned from them.

How Solar-Powered Appliances Are Changing Things

Technological advancements have made it easy for solar-powered appliances to become more readily available to purchase. Something as simple as a solar bottle light bulb runs around $2-3.

The solar bottle light bulb is “made out of a plastic bottle of purified water and bleach, [that] is sealed into the roof,” according to National Geographic. The water allows for light to be spread out in the room and the chlorine keeps mold from growing. The solar bottle light bulb not only works with the sunlight but it also works when the moonlight is strong as well. It allows for the people in the home to be able to do more within the household, like study, read or work inside.

Connecting people that live in rural areas to an electrical grid sometimes is not possible or it becomes too expensive to be able to afford. Electricity then becomes a luxury that people cannot afford. Sometimes, people wait years for a grid to be built near them, but having solar-powered appliances allows for them to have access to that technology much sooner.

Organizations Assisting the Distribution of Solar Power

In 2016, four U.S. foundations announced an initiative “to support efforts to bring reliable ‘off-grid’ or ‘mini-grid’ power—fueled by solar energy—to people in India who now are without it,” according to Think Progress. The foundations include Hewlett, the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, the Jeremy & Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. All four foundations have initiated a $30,000,000 initiative to fund the program and the Indian government is set to match this.

Furthermore, a company by the name of Easy Solar is helping provide electricity to the residents of Sierra Leone. This company is lead by Nthabiseng Mosia, Alexandre Toure and Eric Silverman. Easy Solar began in 2015 as a response to energy accessibility in Sierra Leone. In an interview from Business Report with Nthabiseng Mosia, she stated, “It’s often widely publicized that two-thirds of sub-Saharan Africans lack access to electricity. But in Sierra Leone, 90 percent of people (and 99 percent in rural areas) don’t have any electricity.”

With Easy Solar, appliances are set up so that consumers are on a rent-to-own basis, providing weekly payments. Some of the devices that the business offers are lights and mobile chargers as well as solar lanterns that have the capability of charging phones and offer more than 24 hours of light. The company’s appliances are not just limited to households but are also for businesses as well.

There are many organizations on the ground that are helping individuals obtain the necessary materials to be able to survive that will not cost them their lives. Solar-powered appliances are one solution that is helping eradicate poverty.

– Valeria Flores
Photo: Flickr

SunSalutor: Providing Energy and Water to Impoverished CountriesWorldwide, there are about 1.5 billion people without electricity and about 750 million people who do not have access to clean water. These are life’s basic necessities and people are unfortunately lacking in these resources. Thankfully, there is a new piece of technology called the SunSalutor that is providing energy and water to impoverished countries.

Solar panels are a popular solution when discussing how to bring energy to those in poverty. Solar panels have been successful but they are not as energy efficient as many would like them to be. Eden Full Goh, the founder and creator of SunSalutor, has made it possible for solar panels to track the sun which allows for more energy to be collected.

How the SunSalutor Works

A single axis tracker with a water weight at the east end and a counterweight on the west end allows for a solar panel to track the sun. The tracking is powered by gravity and water. The water weight drips water throughout the day, making itself lighter.

As the water weight becomes lighter, the solar panel begins to shift thanks to the counterweight. With the appropriate adjustment on how quickly the water weight drips water, the solar panel will track the sun throughout the day and collect more energy than it would if it was standing still.

But that is not all the SunSalutor does. The dripping water can also be filtered to create clean drinking water. So, not only is the SunSalutor providing energy to impoverished countries, it is also providing water.

Benefits of the SunSalutor

One of the great benefits that come with the SunSalutor is the low cost. At most, an entire SunSalutor costs around $10 to $15. The main frame is built from local materials such as bamboo or wood. Because of this, the SunSalutor can be maintained and fixed locally. The cost for a SunSalutor set is 30 times cheaper than traditional panels.

The SunSalutor also eliminates the need for kerosene gas generators. Buying kerosene gas can become expensive over time and generators can create a lot of noise. Furthermore, they produce CO2 emissions which can end up polluting the air. The SunSalutor eliminates all of these issues.

Providing Energy and Water to Impoverished Countries

According to the official SunSalutor website, in Mpala, Kenya, there was a village that did not have electricity. The inhabitants had to rely on kerosene gas to have electricity in their village. Villagers had to travel two hours round-trip to receive the necessary kerosene gas. They also had to do this to charge their cellphones. Thanks to the SunSalutor, these villagers can now stay within their village and produce electricity locally.

Providing energy and water to impoverished countries can have a lot of benefits. Thanks to the electricity gained, children can now study for longer and be prepared for school the next day. If these children do well in school, they can possibly break the cycle of poverty that they have been in. The SunSalutor is not only providing energy and water to impoverished countries, it can also provide people a way out of poverty.

– Daniel Borjas
Photo: Flickr

Saudi Arabia vs Egypt: The Race for Solar Power in the Middle East
For the past 50 years, oil has been a defining characteristic of the Middle East. Energy production continues to be a mainstay for the economy in the region, but in the future, it will come from a different source; since 2013, governments and private industries have invested over $1 trillion in solar power in the Middle East.

Rationale for Solar Power in the Middle East

The reasons behind the boom in solar power in the Middle East stems from a few causes. Consulting firm Ernst & Young recently declared Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and the UAE as having the greatest potential for renewable energy investment. With the cost of oil shrinking, the IMF has stated that the region, specifically the Gulf nations, needs to diversify its economies and end dependence on fossil fuels.

In addition, political pressure also plays a crucial cause in the spike in solar power. UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed sees the push as a means to stave off tension with environmental activists and “green” governments looking for sources of energy outside the fossil fuel realm.

World’s Largest Solar Farm, For Now

However, oil-dependent countries in the region aren’t the only ones investing; Egypt, a nation plagued with inflation since the Arab Spring, has also looked at new ways to jumpstart its economy.

As a result, Egypt announced in February the construction of the Benban Solar Park, a public/private venture to open in 2019 with an output of up 2.0 GW. For comparison, the most extensive solar plant in operation emits a mere 550 megawatts. Benban Solar Park is the crown jewel of the 29 solar power projects in Egypt ($1.8 billion cost so far) and would act as the largest producer of solar power in the Middle East.

Gamesmanship in the Middle East

Egypt held this title for solar power in the Middle East for around two months before Saudi Arabia announced its joint venture with the Japanese SoftBank to create the world’s largest solar power plant. With an expected output of over 200 GW, the expected completion date of their project is 2030.

While both projects are a long time from realization, it comes as a major signifier of the Saudi political and economic plan for the future.

The kingdom currently holds a budget deficit of 9.3 percent and an unemployment rate around of 13 percent. And, even though the KSA significantly lags behind other nations in regard to social tolerance, reforms are being made, even in the face of a lagging economy and social upheaval that could prove costly to stability in the kingdom.

Ayham Kamel, head of Middle East and North Africa research at the Eurasia Group, stated that solar energy is “a vision; it’s aspirational more than anything. They’re trying to implement key parts of it. It’s fundamentally changing the Kingdom’s political and social structure in a movement that’s much more viable – fiscally and regionally.”

The SoftBank solar farm is one of many infrastructure projects Saudi Arabia has planned. One of the most ambitious being a $500 billion entertainment city on the Red Sea that will be built with the hopes of drawing more tourism to the nation.

Rest of the Region

Egypt and Saudi Arabia are far from the only nations with plans for more solar power in the Middle East — Dubai hopes to power 75 percent of the city using solar energy by 2050, and Morocco is in the middle of the production of a 2,000 MW solar farm to lessen its reliance on expensive imports.

Whether it’s political, environmental or economic, countries all across the region are looking towards solar energy to address problems within their borders. Some of the projects will trade at record low prices and the largest plant projects adding 100,000 jobs.

Plans for solar power in the Middle East are ambitious if nothing else. Now, it’s time to see these plans come to fruition.   

– David Jaques

Photo: Flickr