Solar Lighting Eliminates the Need for Electricity in Rural Areas
The Grameen Surya Bijli Foundation (GSBF), a Bombay-based nongovernmental organization that is committed to bringing light to rural India, installed the $55 lamps in about 300 homes. About 100,000 villages in India still do not have electricity, and the cost of lighting those villages by traditional means is prohibitive. The solar LED technology eliminates the need for electric lights. After the initial cost, solar energy continues to light the lamps free of charge.
“Children can now study at night, elders can manage their chores better," one relieved villager told The Christian Science Monitor. "Life doesn't halt anymore when darkness falls.”
LED Lamps Provide Safer and Better Light For Less
Replacing kerosene lamps with clean solar-powered LED lamps also provides healthier and safer living conditions as well as better light for less money. According to The Christian Science Monitor, about 1.5 billion people worldwide use kerosene to light their homes, but the fuel is dangerous.
Separate reports by the Intermediate Technology Development Group and the World Health Organization indicate that indoor air pollution from kerosene and similar fuels used for indoor lighting and cooking cause more than 1.5 million deaths annually. The risk of fire is another significant health hazard with kerosene lamps.
Kerosene Expensive and Dangerous
Kerosene is also expensive for people living in poverty. In rural India, for example, buying kerosene requires nearly 4 percent of a typical household budget. Finally, LED lamps are simply more efficient and provide more useful light. According to The Christian Science Monitor, LED lamps produce “nearly 200 times more useful light than a kerosene lamp and almost 50 times the amount of useful light of a conventional bulb.”
“This technology can light an entire rural village with less energy than that used by a single conventional 100 watt light bulb,” says Dave Irvine-Halliday, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Calgary, Canada and the founder of Light Up the World Foundation (LUTW). Founded in 1997, LUTW has used solar-powered LED technology to light nearly 10,000 homes in 27 developing countries.
Strategies Needed to Reduce the Initial Cost of LED Solar Lamps
For the program to work long-term in India, GSBF says it will be necessary to lower the cost of the LED lamps by manufacturing them inside India instead of importing them from China and elsewhere. Manufacturing the lamps locally would lower the cost from $55 to $22 per unit, but building a factory would cost approximately $5 million, and investment capital is not easy to find.