Indian Solar Power Pack Powers Villages

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Developments in India are showing the way forward for low-cost solar power for the poor. The Duron Solar Home Power System (http://www.duronenergy.com/product_info/) is now enabling the rural poor to generate and store solar electricity. It is powerful enough to charge gadgets and appliances and run LED lights. It allows people to do their household chores into the dark hours and to study or earn extra income.

As the company says, it “allows ample light for cooking, for children to study at night, and for shop owners to stay open later to earn more money.”

The system removes the need for polluting and dangerous kerosene lamps, which are used by an estimated one million families for lighting in India.

Kerosene lamps are a major contributor to indoor air pollution, which itself claims the lives of 1.5 million people each year. Kerosene lamps have also caused countless deaths by suffocation, burns and fatal fires.

The United Nations Environment Program says kerosene fumes are responsible for around 64 percent of deaths for children under the age of five in developing countries.

More than 1.7 billion people around the world have no domestic electricity supply, of whom more than 500 million live in sub-Saharan Africa (World Bank). Some 400 million people in India do not have access to electricity, according to the World Bank, and 600,000 villages lack an electrical supply. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has pledged “power for all” by 2012. Without electricity, many development goals remain dreams that will never be achieved.

Being able to see at night unleashes a vast range of possibilities, but for the very poor lighting is often the most expensive household expense, soaking up 10 to 15 percent of income.

According to Greenpeace (http://www.greenpeace.org/international/), India could generate 10 percent of its electricity from solar power by 2030.

The Duron package comes with a five watt solar panel, a cell phone charger connection, three LED (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LED_lamp) lights, and an AC grid charger. After a day of charging, the Duron can power three hours of bright lighting or 10 hours of dim lighting.

The Duron system sells for about 5,999 rupees, or around US $130, and the typical user to date has been small businesses and schools.

Duron is selling several thousand units a month and the company is currently scaling up its sales efforts.

Duron’s approach is to provide a market solution to the huge problem of providing electricity to India’s rural poor.

The company was launched in 2008 with the goal of providing electricity to those without around the world. It was developed out of the Idea Lab (http://www.idealab.com/), a Pasadena, Californian incubator of technology companies.

Extensive field research was conducted across India to determine what was the best solution and what were the needs of rural dwellers. Duron moved its headquarters to Bangalore, India in 2009 to be closer to its customers and expand sales. The company operates in the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka.

By August 2009, more than 2,100 people had light because of the Duron system. The company calculates this translated into 172,500 hours of light.

One customer, Anil Singh, lives with his family in the unelectrified village of Narainpur. His family used kerosene lamps and was paying US $4 a day for unreliable lighting. But after seeing his neighbour, Santosh Singh, with bright, powerful lights at his home, he was curious as to why. When he found out about Duron’s system, he installed a system to light his front porch and two rooms in his house. His family now enjoys two-and-half hours of reliable light in the evening to do things.

“The Duron has made my life so much easier,” said Anil. “It’s a much cheaper (lighting) option compared to kerosene lamps, and I now have a reliable source of power on a daily basis,” he told the company’s website.

Another innovative start-up with offices in India and Africa, is the d.light company, which also has a new, highly-efficient solar-powered product available. The Kiran LED lamp (http://www.dlightdesign.com/products_kiran_global.php) stays lit for eight hours on a full battery and is four times brighter than a kerosene lamp. It illuminates 360 degrees and produces an even, bright white light.

Resources

1) Lighting Africa: this website run by the World Bank is a virtual business community and has forums, market intelligence, access to grants, network and partnership opportunities. Website: http://lightingafrica.org/index.cfm?Page=Home

2) D.light Design is dedicated to bringing modern lighting and power to more than 1.6 billion people globally currently living without electricity. They aim to be the number one player in off-grid lighting and power solutions worldwide. Website: http://www.dlightdesign.com/

3) Solar Power Answers is a one-stop-shop for everything to do with solar power. It has a design manual and guides to the complex world of solar power equipment. Website: http://www.solar-power-answers.co.uk/index.php

4) Sun King solar lantern: The lantern provides 16 hours of light for a day’s charge. Website: http://www.greenlightplanet.com/ourusers.html

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