Solar Powered LanternsMore than one billion people around the world do not have access to electricity, as is the case in northern Kenya. When the sun sets, many families and health facilities rely on kerosene lamps as a source of light. These, however, are a major hazard, especially for young students who need to be able to study late into the night. Not only do they cause a fire hazard but they can also cause a strain on vision and respiratory problems.

The Panasonic Corporation began The Solar Lantern Project to provide a safer alternative for light in northern Kenya. The company donated more than 2,000 solar-powered lanterns to schools and clinics in the counties of Samburu and Isiolo.

The solar-powered lanterns have become a huge success in the schools of northern Kenya. They are recharged there during the day and are taken home by students at night to allow them to study and complete their homework. Students are not risking their health when they use the lamps.

Parents of students in northern Kenya can save almost two percent of their monthly expenses when their child brings home the solar-powered lanterns. In an interview conducted by Medium, a Kenyan mother stated that she “had to spend 20 shillings on kerosene every day.” Thanks to the solar-powered lanterns, she saves “around 1,000 shillings a month.”

Solar energy has become a popular alternative to electricity in many poor countries. It is accessible anywhere and an alternative source that is sustainable. According to research conducted by the International Energy Agency, “enough solar energy falls on the surface of the earth every 90 minutes to meet the entire planet’s energy needs for a year.”

The environment also benefits from using the Panasonic solar-powered lanterns instead of kerosene lamps. The fumes that come from burning kerosene contaminate the air and only further global warming. If one million lamps are in use by the end of 2018, they are “expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 30,000 tonnes between 2014 and 2018.”

Panasonic’s solar-powered lanterns may seem like a small solution, but they are allowing students to learn better and more safely outside of the classroom. The benefits of these lamps will continue to improve poverty in Kenya, slowly, but at least in the right direction.

Mackenzie Fielder

Photo: Flickr

Solar Power in IndiaWhile cars may not be able to fly, solar energy can now power trains and this might be the next best thing. On July 14, 2017, India’s first solar-powered train hits the railroad as the country looks to move toward more renewable energy sources.

As a nation, India has long relied on railroad transport to get from one place to another. With 68,000 kilometers of railroad, India is the country with the fifth-greatest capacity for rail transportation. These rails play a critical role in transporting both passengers and cargo around the country.

Railroads account for 85 percent of India’s passenger traffic and 60 percent of its freight capacity. However, railways in India emit a significant amount of carbon dioxide. As a nation, India contributes four percent of the world’s fossil fuel emissions, posing serious environmental challenges.

The DEMU (diesel electric multiple train) that was launched out of the Safdarjung train station in New Delhi is expected to offset these emissions. The DEMU train is significantly more environmentally friendly than previous train models and counteracts carbon emissions by nine tons per coach per year, with a total of six coaches.

The design for the DEMU train was completed by Jakson engineers after they were awarded this project by Indian Railways Organization for Alternate Fuels, a unit of Indian Railways focused on promoting biodiesel and other alternative fuels for India’s railways.

The solar panels on India’s first solar-powered train have the capacity to power its internal lights, fans, and other electrical systems within the train, generating a total of 7,200 kilowatts per system per year. Additional energy generated during peak hours will be stored in a battery.

Regardless, with India’s expanding economy, it is necessary to address the limitations of current methods of transportation. While a commitment to renewable energy sources like solar power curbs carbon dioxide emissions, India’s current transportation methods pose certain limitations.

Transportation infrastructure is strained and unable to support future economic growth that could help alleviate poverty for many. Trains in India do reach most of the population, but rural areas are often under-served and many of the poor are not connected to India’s main economic centers by road or railway.

While India’s current dependence on rail transportation poses economic and poverty-related problems, the shift toward more environmentally sustainable practices alleviates some of these issues and India’s first solar-powered train is a good step towards this.

Jennifer Faulkner

Each year, over a million diesel pumps consume approximately $900 million worth of diesel in Bangladesh, according to the World Bank. Like other gas-operated engines, the diesel pumps kick out the exhaust. Diesel emissions have been found to contain more than 40 hazardous pollutants, including nitrogen oxide along with heavy metals, such as arsenic, according to the Office of Environmental Health Hazards Assessment (OEHHA).

These emissions have both immediate and long-term health risks for the farmers operating the pumps. On contact, exhaust can cause irritation to the eyes, nose and throat. But more serious damage can occur over time. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) reports that 80-95 percent of diesel soot contains “ultrafine particulates, which are small enough to penetrate the cells of the lungs.” These particulates and toxic gasses increase the risk of cellular mutation leading to cancer, respiratory and cardiovascular disease in those with long-term exposure to the emissions, according to the OEHHA.

To combat the problems associated with the lack of electical grid access and prevalent use of diesel powered engines, the World Bank has created the Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Development II (RERED II) Project. With a yearly average of more than 200 sunny days, studies have shown that Bangladesh is a prime candidate to use solar power as an alternative to the expensive and health threatening diesel, according to the Climate and Development Knowledge Network.

The program is straightforward. RERED II is designed to give farmers access to clean energy irrigation while saving them money at the same time. The solar pumps, funded in combination by the World Bank, the Bangladesh Climate Change Resilience Funds (BCCRF) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), produce water that serves multiple farms. With this arrangement, the farmers only pay for what they need during the irrigation season, according to World Bank.

At this point, the program is still a pilot and serves a limited number of communities. However, since the Infrastructure Development Company (IDCOL) has implemented the pilot, farmers in the selected areas have chosen the solar pumps over their diesel counterparts.

With the installation of solar pumps showing positive results across the board thus far, the Bangladesh government intends to install more solar panels throughout the nation. As reported by The World Factbook, in 2013 Bangladesh produced 97 percent of the country’s electricity through the combustion of fossil fuels. By making steps toward switching to clean solar energy, the Bangladesh government will be able to drastically lower carbon dioxide and other emissions in future years, improving air quality and the health of Bangladeshis throughout the nation.

Claire Colby

Sources: CDKN, OEHHA, Science Direct, Union of Concerned Scientists, World Bank, The World Factbook

Photo: providencetrade

Solar Powered Classrooms Coming to Kenya
Kenya currently ranks 101st in the world in access to basic information, which includes literacy rates, primary and secondary school enrollments, and gender parity in secondary enrollment. In addition, only 39 percent of the population has internet access.

Safaricom Foundation, an African telco, is looking to change the current landscape by providing every student a school with a room full of computers to boost education in Kenya.

A 20-by-9-foot classroom can hold up to 40 students and be equipped with 11 desktop computers. Each classroom comes with monitors, a server, and a projector. The building is made from local materials to boost local revenues while providing a building with educational value.

Aleutia is a company which builds computers for schools and clinics that are powered by solar panels at a cost of about $20,000. They are currently building solar powered classrooms in 47 villages around Kenya. $10,000 goes toward structural costs and the other $10,000 goes toward the equipment. The solar panels come pre-installed in order to reduce costs.

Two classrooms can be preloaded onto a 40-foot flatbed truck.

Aleutia’s founder, Mike Rosenberg, wants to create local micro-grids that will power communities and allow the power to transfer as needed. So if the school has extra power available it can be transferred to a clinic building that is using more power.

Kenya has made significant progress since 1999 to ensure that more children are getting an education and becoming more literate. They spend on average 6.7 percent of their GNP on education, which is an increase from 5.4 percent in 1999. However, one million children are still not attending school.

Primary education in Kenya is free, but families do not have the money or resources to provide for their children to excel in school and compete globally. The classrooms from Aleutia and Safaricom can reduce the costs for families and help Kenyan children become more competitive on the global level by providing them with resources not available to other parts of the world.

An estimated 20,000 kids will benefit from the classrooms in 47 Kenyan counties that are gaining energy from the sun to provide internet access and learning resources to students.

Donald Gering

Sources: Fast Company, Good News Network, Social Progress Imperative, UNESCO
Photo: Google Images