SUNLIGHT AT NIGHT In many parts of Africa people who live in rural by mifei


                                             The IT Solar Lantern has been
In many parts of Africa people who           designed as a low-cost alternative to a
live in rural areas have no access to        Solar Home System and is intended to
electricity. Despite ambitious               allow rural African families to climb
government plans, the constraints            the first step on the “energy ladder”.
imposed by a scarcity of financial
resources and the sheer practical            Design and Development
difficulties of transmitting and
distributing grid electricity over           To help define the new product, project
huge areas means that most people            partners Energy Alternatives Africa
face the prospect of going without a         undertook market survey work with
connection for many years to come.           rural families in Kenya. Potential
                                             customers were asked what
As a result, most families are forced to     characteristics they would like to see in
rely on candles or Kerosene lamps to         an ideal Solar Lantern. The
provide basic lighting in their homes.       information, which included
In Kenya for example, 96% of                 everything from suggestions on retail
householders use kerosene for lighting,      price and operating hours to the
while 70% also spend significant             provision of a socket to power a small
amounts of hard earned cash on dry-          radio, was then used as the basis for a
cell batteries for torches. This recurrent   design brief. Together with local
cost every month eats up valuable            manufacturers in Kenya the ITC team
financial resources that could               then proceeded to design a product to
otherwise be directed towards                fit the bill.
children’s education or family health.
                                             During the development process, the
Energy from the Sun is available for         team were able to exploit the latest
free and Kenyans have it in plentiful        computer solid modelling and rapid
supply. As a result there has been a         prototyping techniques to build a series
growing interest in Photo-Voltaics (the      of models for demonstration and
devices used to convert the Suns             testing. A batch of these prototype
energy into electricity) and sales of        lanterns will be tested with rural
Solar Home systems have been                 families in Kenya shortly. Feedback
growing steadily over the last few           and suggestions from these tests will
years. Unfortunately the cost of             be used to make any changes to the
installing even a moderate Solar Home        final design before full-scale
System puts it out of reach for most         production of the lantern goes ahead
Kenyan families.                             later this year.

                                                                                   PUSH BUTTON CONTROL
                                                                                    AND DUAL COLOUR LED
                                                                                 INDICATING BATTERY STATUS
                                                                                    GREEN - CHARGING
                                                                                    RED - DISCHARGING

                                                        SEALED LEAD-ACID
                                                          GEL-BATTERY              9V DC OUTPUT TO RADIO

How does it work?                                           battery is charged and discharged
                                                            correctly so that it gives a lifetime of
The Solar lantern kit consists of a                         maintenance free service, but it can
Photo-Voltaic Panel, and a lantern                          also “decide” to give the battery an
containing a high efficiency lamp, a                        extra top-up charge if the panel has
rechargeable battery and a charge                           gone without its full quota of sunlight
control circuit. The concept is a                           for a few days. It’s on-board
simple one – during daytime, sunlight                       microprocessor will even store
falling onto the Photo-Voltaic Panel                        information (which can be downloaded
generates a small electrical voltage.                       later after “interrogation”) on how the
This is used to charge the Lanterns                         lantern has been used over a period of
battery so that the lamp can provide                        time. This information is extremely
light during darkness.                                      useful and will help the designers build
The charge control circuit housed                           a picture of how customers use their
within the lantern is the “brain” of the                    lanterns. This information will be used
unit. Not only does it ensure that the                      to design better lanterns in future.
Win a solar lantern

Now that the detailed design work has
been completed, the Lantern team are
about to finalise another important detail
– its name! “Small World” readers are
invited to put their pen to paper and help
us to decide on a suitable name under
which to market the new lantern. As a
guide, the name should be short, simple
and easily remembered and of course it
should be appropriate for use over a wide
range of countries! The author of any of
the names that are used will receive as a
prize, a brand new Solar Lantern (as soon
as they go into production).
Use the form in the centre of the
magazine to send in your suggestion or
visit the Solar Lantern Website at\itdg

To top