Eight19, a company specializing in solar electricity for off-grid use, is coming out with a personal, pay-as-you-go solar electricity system designed for developing areas of the world. Called IndiGo, the system is intended to allow people to light their homes and use and charge electronic devices in an affordable way, and is modeled on the pay-as-you-go plans used by mobile phone companies.
The system comprises a solar panel, a battery unit with a built-in phone charger and an LED lamp. Users open an account using SMS (texting) over a mobile phone, and credit their accounts using a card, not unlike a prepaid phone card. Each account is also protected by pass codes to ensure security. Without the codes, electricity is not provided. Currently, customer trials are underway in Kenya and will soon be implemented in Zambia, Malawi and in areas of India. IndiGo is expected to be commercially accessible in early 2012.
Simon Bransfield-Garth, CEO of Eight19, sees the IndiGo system as a step in providing clean, off-grid energy to people worldwide. “IndiGo enables a new generation of solar power products that are affordable,” he says, “providing customers with access, often for the first time, to clean low cost energy that eliminates the health risks and carbon emissions of kerosene.”
The company cites user Samuel Kimani of Mwiki, Kenya, as a customer pleased not to have to use kerosene anymore. “I am very happy now because this new IndiGo system replaces my kerosene lighting, which has been a very poor quality of light and creates a lot of air pollution,” he said. “I am very happy because I can do the charging right here in my own house.”