From void into vision, from vision to mind, from mind into speech, from speech to the tribe, from the tribe into din.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Personal Power Production: Solar from Civil Defense to Swadeshi

US and NATO forces have distributed more than 700,000 solar/dynamo am/fm/sw radios in Afghanistan since before our invasion of 2001 and that a simple modification to that solar/dynamo adds battery charging capabilities to each of them (circuit diagram at ).

US AID is distributing 250,000 solar/dynamo radios in Sudan over the next few years. Again, those solar/dynamos can not now charge extra AA or other size batteries although with a connection to a battery bay from the cell phone charger output they certainly could. The combination of a few square inches of solar electric, photovoltaic, PV power with a hand-crank or pedal power generator provides a modicum of electric power day or night, by sunlight or muscle power. It also allows battery switching, charging one set of batteries while using another. This is practical personal power production and the technology is deployed in the field in Afghanistan and Sudan or available off the shelf right now for $30 from LL Bean and many others, if you are willing to do a little tinkering.

The same technology is also a Solar Civil Defense.

Flashlight, cell phone, radio, and extra set of batteries all can be powered with a couple of square inches of solar electricity (PV) panel. It is also what we are supposed to have on hand in case of a blizzard or hurricane, emergency or disaster. Add a hand crank or pedal power generator and you have reliable production of AA and larger battery electrical power.

This level of survival solar power is a significant rise in the standard of living for the 1.6 to 1.8 billion people in the world who do not now have access to electricity, too. Civil defense preparedness here in the US could be linked to providing services to the poorest of the global poor. I am talking with a Cambridge, MA group which includes city officers and officials about the possibility of promoting Solar IS Civil Defense locally through a buy one, give one exchange with a sister city in the developing world, possibly with Bogolight ( or Light Haiti Project ( ).

In addition, this combination of small scale solar and human power is an example of swadeshi, local production or self production, a core principle of Gandhian economics:
"Swadeshi is that spirit in us which restricts us to the use and service of our immediate surroundings to the exclusion of the more remote."
Speeches and Writings of M. K. Gandhi, 1919 ( )

Gandhi would spin thread for an hour each day, usually producing a hundred yards for weaving into cloth, and helped develop a simple spinning wheel (charkha) that allowed many to do the same. He believed that spinning was the foundation of non-violence and that khadi cloth was a means to the local production of economic independence. Gandhi was a middle-aged man when he first asked his wife Kasturba to teach him to use the spinning wheel. Once he had mastered the wheel, he practiced spinning every day for the rest of his life. Home-spinning became a symbol for independence and self-reliance throughout India under his encouragement and direction and a market began in cottage industry and home produced cloth, khadi.

Gandhi used the charkha, the spinning wheel. Today there is an e-charkha available, developed by RS Hiremath ( ):

"...spinning on the two-spindle e-charkha for two hours will produce 2,400 meters of yarn and provide a light output for 7.5 hours. According to the innovator, the LED light is of the latest type and has an extremely long life of at least 35 years. The generator in the e-charkha is also custom designed for this application and is of the three-phase AC version with no brushes, which makes it last for over three and a half decades. Hiremath has sold over 1,800 e-charkhas till date, the biggest consumer lot residing in Rajasthan and Gujarat. He says, “The response till now has been overwhelming. Most users are delighted with the prospect of a charkha generating them money and electricity.... The e-charkha, which weighs around 10 to 12 kgs, has two models—a two-spindle one and an eight-spindle one. The universal retrofit kit that can be easily attached to the shaft of any charkha is priced at Rs 1,500, while the two-spindle e-charkha costs Rs 4,500 and the eight-spindle one Rs 11,000. The innovator has applied for a patent for the retrofit kit, which consists of a three-phase AC generator, lead acid battery and intermediate control circuits for charge and discharge. It is currently manufactured at a facility in Bangalore and is mostly produced by disabled employees. The product is currently being marketed by Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), Mumbai."

One humanpower is about one sixth horsepower. A healthy person can produce 100 watts of power for hours on end and 300 watts in a sprint.

Returning to Afghanistan, there is the example of Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Badshah Khan, who practiced Gandhian non-violence and raised the world's first non-violent army, over 100,000 strong, of Pashtun and other peoples, Muslim, Sikh, and HIndu, in the very areas where the Taliban is now active in Pakistan. They were the Khudai Khidmatgar, the Servants of God, the Red Shirts, who based their non-violence on the Islamic principle of sadr, patience, and the Pashtun custom of melmastia, hospitality. Badshah Khan was educated in a madrassa as well as a missionary school. He began building his own schools in 1910, educating both boys and girls, and formed the Khudai Khidmatgar a decade or so later. That group lasted until 1947 when it was disbanded, forcibly, by the new nation of Pakistan. I wonder if the Taliban learned anything from him.

Could we do with electricity what Gandhi did with cloth, at least for emergencies and disasters? Can hand-made electricity, 21st century khadi cloth, provide real electrical power to the people and a survival level of energy independence and autonomy?

Solar IS Civil Defense, Illustrated
Solar Swadeshi
Afghanistan Solar
Solar Tactics in Afghanistan
Low Level Leverage Points in Afghanistan
Solar Insurgency
Solar IS Civil Defense
Islamic Satyagraha Army