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

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Free as in Sunlight

Found an interesting project while wandering through my usual haunts on the Internet the other day.  The Dominican Light Project ( is an Indiegogo campaign with a goal of raising at least $25,000 over the month of May 2016 to give solar lanterns to 5000 families in the Dominican Republic.  "For every $25 raised with the Dominican Light Project on Indiegogo, five Dominicans will receive a solar lantern to provide them with a safe source of light. Each lantern provides 12 hours of bright, LED light per 6-8-hour charge and will also eliminate the health and fire risks associated with candles and kerosene lamps.”  Eventually, they’d like to give a solar lantern to every family in the Dominican Republic at an estimated cost of over $25 million.
This reminded me of another solar project in the  Dominican Republic that started in 1984, Enersol (, which developed the SOlar-BASed rural Electrification Concept (SO-BASEC): "an appropriate low-cost, practical, PV system that could be sold and installed by local PV supply micro-enterprises, with financing through a low-cost micro-credit payment plan managed by a local association, cooperative or NGO.”  This model would go on to influence the Grameen Shakti ( program in Bangladesh as well as the Solar Electric Light Company (SELCO) ( ) in India.

What I remember most about Enersol and their work was their insistence on builidng a local support infrastructure that would not only install but also maintain and repair the equipment.  "By 1990 Enersol’s training and assistance to local technicians and micro-credit programs had led to the electrification of 1,000 households and micro-enterprises” demonstrating "that solar electrification was an affordable and effective alternative to conventional grid systems and that it benefited the environment and contributed to local economic development as well.”  And that’s at 1984-1990 prices.

The Dominican Light Project estimates the cost of their solar lights at $5 each, 12 hours of light for every 6-8 hours of charging.  A few months ago, I had an email from Thrive Solar ( informing me that they’ve been able to build solar lights for $1 a piece in production costs in their Indian factory.
For years, I’ve been promoting the idea of Solar IS Civil Defense ( - what we are all supposed to have on hand in case of emergency:  flashlight, cell phone, radio, extra set of batteries - can be powered by a few square inches of solar electric panel.  Add a hand crank or bicycle generator and you have a reliable source of survival level electricity, day or night, by sunlight or muscle power.  This is also entry level electrical power for the 1.5 billion people around the world who do not yet have access to electricity.  

Civil defense at home and economic development abroad can be combined economically as a gift, a premium in a “buy one, give one” program, as a small business, and in many other configurations.  Sunlight is free and the technology for converting it to electricity is now within almost everyone’s grasp.