Low-Cost Solar Brightens Lives in the Developing World

Sarah Perez

Renewable and Nonrenewable Energy


This article zeroes in on the benefits of solar energy in developing nations. Perhaps the greatest asset to the use of solar energy is its cost effectiveness. The author, Jeff Smith elaborates on the story of Katherine Lucey, the founder of Solar Sister. Solar Sister is a nonprofit organization that fosters the installation of solar-powered units in rural villages. Specifically, the organization targets the women of these villages to sell the solar units. The women entrepreneurs are able to supplement their family’s income while providing their fellow villagers with a relatively inexpensive light source. The article elaborates on the growing number of low-cost options available to developing nations. Although solar power may not be the most cost-effective option for homes in the United States, the article points out that it is a good match for rural villages. Because homes in these villages are much smaller and have fewer appliances, solar units can be bought for as little as $10 to $20. Even less expensive are solar bottle bulbs—plastic bottles filled with a solution of water and bleach. The water refracts light while the bleach prevents the growth of mold and bacteria. These makeshift bulbs are often fixed to the ceilings of small homes and can emit light equivalent to that of a 55-watt light bulb.  Because they cost only $2 to $3 to make, these bulbs have become more popular in impoverished villages. The article also elaborates on the benefit of solar units as a possible replacement for kerosene lamps. Aside from emitting toxic fumes, kerosene lamps can also cause severe burns. US company, d.light Design, has also contributed to the shift towards solar power. Specifically, the company focuses on the distribution of solar lamps and lanterns in Africa and India. Like many others, d.light Design’s units are relatively inexpensive, ranging in price from $10 to $45. d.light Design and similar companies not only improve the lives of millions of people, but provide a more sustainable alternative to fossil-fuel energy. The use of low-cost solar units has also spurred economic growth and increased production. With the extra light after dark, students can study into the evening hours and parents can continue their work indoors.


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