Mind & Matter


Pay as You Go Solar Energy

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IndiGo 2.5W personal solar charging system. Photo: Eight19


One of the most promising aspects of new technology is its potential to equalize quality of life disparities. The integration of solar power and low-energy LED lighting, for example, is a powerful combination capable of delivering positive lifestyle changes to people lacking easy access to electricity—which is nearly a quarter of humanity. Many organizations are capitalizing on the opportunity to deliver safe, carbon-free sources of light to remotely located communities around the world. However, the cost of deployment and servicing have presented some challenges.

Recently, UK-based solar energy company Eight19 unveiled a pay-as-you-go system for families based in Kenya. The product, called IndiGo, is a 2.5W flexible photovoltaic panel that charges a battery. A single day’s charge is enough to deliver five hours of illumination, and a USB connector also enables phone charging. The system costs one dollar per week to run, which is lower than the three to five dollars per week that families currently spend on kerosene fuel for lamps—and it doesn’t produce dirty emissions as kerosene does.

According to University of Bath researcher Sabah Abdullah, “These are the people who really need a step up in terms of electrification.” Eight19 plans to sell IndiGo early next year, in addition to higher power systems for home use.




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.