Off-the-grid solar light production

| September 15, 2014

Solar lights present an incredibly promising method for bringing electricity to areas of the world that are off the traditional electric grid. However, it’s not as simple as shipping solar panels and lights to remote and developing areas. For one thing, these communities need training and human capital in order to set up and maintain solar panel and light systems. And even if the panels and light systems are set up, what happens when a component breaks? You can’t exactly stroll into your community-owned convenience store and ask for a new solar panel. Too often, well-intentioned efforts to provide off-grid solar power leave communities understandably frustrated—and in the dark.

So if importing solar products isn’t the right solution to off-grid power, what is?

From John Barrie.

Liter of Light makes solar lights locally to cut down on costs. From John Barrie.

A social entrepreneur in the Philippines has an answer. Illac Diaz founded an organization called Liter of Light. This organization makes solar products locally, using community members as employees. This accomplishes several tasks simultaneously:

  • Cuts down on importing costs
  • Creates jobs within the community
  • Generates local expertise and a local network of supplies and resources, which makes repairs and replacements much simpler

The solar products made by Liter of Light are simple, but don’t mistake simplicity for low-tech. These are extremely functional lights that are only made from a handful of parts, yet incorporate high-tech chips that reportedly guarantee to make the light last for 70,000 hours.

Even better? This is an impressively green operation (beyond the obvious fact that solar power is, in itself, very green). The lights use many recycled components, and “everything is packaged in recycled water bottles to protect the components,” reports Adele Peters from Fast Company‘s Co.Exist.

But wait, there’s more. “Those recycled water bottles are covered with handcrafted woven shades, providing a new outlet for local basket-weaving skills that are no longer in much demand,” observes Peters.

Need one more reason to keep it local? Creating and repairing solar products on-site makes the community more easily able to respond quickly in the event of a natural disaster. Diaz recalls Typhoon Haiyan, saying: “When a storm can hit 14 million houses and wipe it out in 24 hours, you really need a new kind of response,” says Diaz. “You can’t wait for foreign agencies to come in.”

Liters of Light keeps it local, but it isn’t exactly a small-scale operation. In only two years, the organization “has distributed 360,000 lights in 15 chapters around the world” and they’re on their way to one million by the end of the year.

Sounds like a bright idea.

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About the Author ()

Ellen Hunter Gans has been writing for RecycleReminders since the blog’s inception. She is passionate about words, new media and, of course, recycling.

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