Solar Lantern

In developing countries the solar lantern is a cheap alternative to a Solar Home System (SHS) providing 4-5 hours of high quality lighting service or 15 hours of listening to the radio. It provides higher quality light than the use of candles or kerosene lamps. They are also used to provide street lighting in rural areas. In this case Light Emitting Diode (LED) solar lanterns are usually used. The Glowstar lantern developed by Practical Action in the Kenyan context and now marketed by Sollatek is a good example of a robust version of a solar lantern, which can withstand harsh African conditions (see Practical Action). It uses a PV panel to charge up a 12-Volt lead-acid gel cell battery located in the base of the lamp which is designed to withstand many charge/ discharge cycles. Other manufacturers may have different battery specifications. The light source is a compact fluorescent tube which should last four years in normal operation. There are many lamps on the market but the main working principles are the same.


Benefits of Solar Lights and Lanterns for the rural world

  • Extends the Working day in rural areas - On average it is dark by 6:30 year round. Solar Lighting allows rural families to extend their workday into the evening hours. Many villages where solar lights are installed see a increase in their economic activitiy levels. Installing Solar lights in villages allows businesses to operate during the evening. Solar electricity helps promote local enterprises as small shops and village markets can use the systems to provide lighting to operate during the evening.
  • Improves Health issues - Fumes from kerosene lamps in poorly ventilated houses are a serious health problem in much of the world where electric light is unavailable. The World Bank estimates that 780 million women and children breathing kerosene fumes inhale the equivalent of smoke from 2 packs of cigarettes a day. By the use of Solar Lanterns these issues are resolved.
  • Improves Fire-Reduction - Kerosene lamps are a serious fire hazard in the developing world, killing and maiming tens of thousands of people each year. Kerosene, diesel fuel and gasoline stored for lamps and small generators are also a safety threat, whereas solar electric light comes as the safest measure for all.
  • Saves Energy - Solar electricity for the Third World is clearly the most effective energy conservation program because it conserves costly conventional power for urban areas, town market centers, and industrial and commercial uses, leaving decentralized PV-generated power to provide the lighting and basic electrical needs of the majority of the developing world's rural populations.
  • Reduces Maintenance - Use of a solar light rather than gensets or kerosene lamps reduces the time and expense of refueling and maintenance. Kerosene lamps and diesel generators must be filled several times per day. In rural areas, purchasing and transporting of kerosene or diesel fuel is often both difficult and expensive. Diesel generators require periodic maintenance and have a short lifespan. Car batteries, used to power TVs must often be transported miles for recharging. They require no fuel, and will last for several years with minimal servicing.
  • Reduces local air pollution - Use of solar electric systems decreases the amount of local air pollution. With a decrease in the amount of kerosene used for lighting, there is a corresponding reduction in the amount of local pollution produced. Solar rural electrification also decreases the amount of electricity needed from small diesel generators.
  • Offsets greenhouse gases - Photovoltaic systems produce electric power with no carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Carbon emission offset is calculated at approximately 6 tons of CO2 over the twenty-year life of one PV system.


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