A lot of highly inventive people are using solar photovoltaic (PV) technology to bring light to poor, rural, underserved populations around the world. It’s a very hopeful development, especially as humans concentrated in the poorest areas of the planet also live in some of the sunniest areas of same, where solar energy almost outperforms fossil fuels.
Solarise, a new concept in solar PV lighting, is one of the simplest idea–and thus possibly one of the best–that we’ve seen. It does no good to print directions for assembly on the box or a separate sheet of paper if they are in English (or French, or Spanish) and the recipient understands only Portuguese or, worse yet, Bantu. Taking that to heart, the Solarise design is for a solar lantern packed in a box that unfolds to form the solar panel and a simple mounting system for same, and the only instructions are those visually intuitive ones provided as diagrams, or inherent in human understanding. For example, the globe light design draws on concepts like a flame, a candle, a campfire or a sunrise.
The on/off control is activated by gently squeezing the globe, as one would pinch out a candle flame. The high-density polyethylene (HDPE) globe is translucent, and the base unit is the layered or thickened bottom of a pressed pulp paper packing box on which solar PV in the form of thin film has been laminated, so there is no waste. Unfold the box, refold according to the diagram, and one has a self-supporting, 3-foot square, 240-watt solar PV panel which charges the globe from a battery-type base. This (the base) can also be used to charge small electronics, thanks to the cord and C-type socket provided.
In a world where one in four does not have even rudimentary access to electricity, the Solarise concept is a welcome ray of light. Like the folding Japanese solar panels we wrote about in March, and even simpler than the LittleSun Lantern from February, the low cost and user-friendly Solarise could easily achieve total rural electrification even in underdeveloped countries, with the backing of such NGOs as the Red Cross, the United Nations and even Doctors Without Borders (aka Médecins Sans Frontières).