Here in Canada, we pretty much take energy for granted. We expect the lights to turn on whenever we need and consider it an annoyance when they don’t. Converting to renewable energy sources is encouraged, but to date, we continue to rely heavily on our power plants to provide the energy we need, when we need it.
Our reliance on government-produced energy means that when most of us think solar, we typically think of the ground mount solar panels used by big corporations and the rooftop solar panels used by individuals to complement the power plant produced energy. Rarely do we think of it as a total replacement solution.
And, we don’t often think about the fact that in many parts of the world, billions of people don’t have regular, or any, access to electricity. One billion people in developing countries don’t have reliable access to electricity and more than 1.3 billion don’t have access to the electrical grid at all. This affects everything from business to education to basic health and safety.
For these people, the ability to harness the power of the sun literally brings light and life into their homes. Here are three of our favourite innovations.
Let there be light. Even small amounts of light and electricity can have an enormous impact on the economic possibilities for workers and the education performance of children. To meet this need, several companies have developed small, durable solar charging lamps and appliances that can cheaply replace kerosene lamps. Our favourites are the d.light S20 which provides 8 hours of 360-degree light on a full battery and the LuminAID which is a solar-inflatable light specifically designed for those affected by disasters, crises and conflicts. It packs flat and inflates to become a lantern.
Fridge on the go. To transport much-needed vaccines and medicines to remote areas of rural Kenya, Winston Soboyejo and his students of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton University came up with the idea of mounting PV solar powered mini refrigerators on the backs of camels.
Fresh water. For people with limited or no access to fresh drinking water, the Eliodomestico solar still provides up to 5 litres of water a day. Water is poured through an opening at the top and the sun heats it during the day. The pressure forces steam through the nozzle leading to a watertight boiler, and condenses against the lid.