Solar-powered lamp made to help the poor!

1 Comment » October 29th, 2009 posted by // Categories: Science & Technology



Solar-powered lamp made to help the poor!

American inventor Sam Goldman is hoping to transform the lives of the world’s rural poor with the launch of a revolutionary solar-powered light.

Costing just $10 dollars (£6) the “Kiran” solar lantern aims to illuminate the lives of the 1.6 billion people in the world who live without access to mains electricity, relying instead on dangerous and dirty kerosine lanterns to light their homes.

The 30-year-old Silicon Valley whizz-kid found his inspiration when working as a US peace-corps volunteer in the west African republic of Benin between 2001 and 2005.

“I would lie at night in the village, looking up at the stars, and thinking how crazy it was that there were satellites up there orbiting the earth when down on the ground we were still sitting in the dark,” he said.

The light, which used LED technology that consumes 90 per cent less power than a traditional incandescent light, is unique in combining first-world components and design at a price affordable to third-world customers.
“A recent study in Bangladesh showed that household incomes rose by 30pc as a result of access to reliable solar light,” he said, “A similar study in Gujarat India found a remarkable improvement in schoolchildren’s performance when they had access to solar lighting.”

Mr Goldman said research into the use of the much-vaunted $100 laptops found that many household actually used them to shed ambient light by which they could cook, work and study.

However Mr Goldman’s moment of inspiration on that dark African night, was followed by an arguably even more crucial revelation that set him on a five-year journey to develop the Kiran that is to be launched worldwide on Wednesday.

“I was a fervent anti-capitalist at the time, but I came to realise during my four years in Benin that government and NGOs were having little or no impact. It was businesses that were really changing lives “delivering technologies like mobile phones, computers and the internet”.

Shedding his peacenik clothes, Mr Goldman returned home to California, enrolling in at Stanford University to do an MBA in social entrepreneurship.

It was there, in 2006, that he met his business partners and founded his company D.Light Design – in a garage, of course.

“It was classic start-up stuff,” he recalls, “a group of like-minded, socially-motivated people in a garage in Mount View [California]. It took a year or two before we faced up to the fact that our market wasn’t in the US and we faced the pain of relocating overseas.” Today D.Light Design, which was recently named among the world’s top 100 clean technology enterprises by the global CleanTech Group, is funded by several major venture capital companies such as the Acumen Fund, Draper Fisher Jurveston and Gray Matters Capital.

“We are socially motivated, but we are also a business,” says Mr Goldman, “We have investors who demand a return on capital “albeit at a slower rate than an out-and-out commercial enterprise “but we’ll deliver the greatest change by being the best business we can.” With a manufacturing operation in Shenzen, China and sales and marketing operations in India and Africa the aim is to combine first world research and manufacturing with marketing and distribution mechanisms unique to the developing world.

D.Light has already sold 300,000 solar lights worldwide, but hopes that the price and quality of the Kiran will enable it to sell 10m lights by 2010 and as many as 100m with the next decade.

Robin Chilton, the 28-year-old British industrial design engineer who head’s D.Light’s product design, said the Kiran had been created precisely to fit the needs “and pockets” of a potentially enormous customer base.
“There are other solar lights out there, but they are typically far more expensive and far poorer quality than the Kiran,” he said, “for example, they have detachable solar panels, but the Kiran’s is built-in. They are fragile, but the Kiran can be dropped from a height of two metres.” Other design features include the ability to hang the Kiran like a conventional kerosine lamp ” meaning villagers don’t have to change their living habits ” and, for those with intermittent access to power, the ability to charge the battery from the mains with a Nokia phone charger.

During early sales trials in the state of Maharashtra, southern India researchers found users often liked surprisingly different things about the light, as well as more obvious benefits of no longer having to scrabble in the dark to find matches and candles, or having to clean the film of black soot left on clothes, walls ” and lungs – by kerosine lights.

One trial customer enjoyed the fact that the light could be hung from the handlebars of a bicycle at night, while another said the white, ambient glow was “calming” and therefore perfect for the prayer room in their house.
A third said the fact that the light didn’t cast a shadow beneath the place where it was hanging was its greatest selling point. “It actually contradicts the Marathi saying that you will always find a shadow under a lamp’”, said Vijay Mane, a seed dealer.

By Peter Foster in Beijing



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One Response to “Solar-powered lamp made to help the poor!”

  1. lamba says:

    pleace i need price for 500 unit in nigeria

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