After leading the installation of the 14kW system for FLAME Ministries in Guinea Bissau I flew to Dar Es Salaam on the Indian Ocean, to connect with my old friend Mason Huffine, who is Operations Director for Solar Aid’s programs in Tanzania. Solar Aid is a U.K. based non-profit organization (NGO) working to fight poverty and climate change through implementation of solar PV technologies.
Check out a video about Solar Aid:
Solar Aid in Tanzania has two main PV programs, ‘micro’ and ‘macro’. The micro-solar program is building hardwood framed 1 to 2 Watt PV modules, AA rechargeable battery packs and LED light fixtures. Solar-Aid is developing the same basic product in each of the four countries where they have operations (Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi, Zambia). The materials and product design varies slightly between the different countries but they all have LED globe style fixture with a long enough wire to be hung from a central point in a room or hut.
They call their product “Sunny Money” because when used to replace lanterns burning expensive kerosene they quickly pay for themselves and will produce free electric light for many years. The other solar LED lanterns available in parts of Africa are mostly molded plastic lanterns from India or China, some with integrated PV cells for recharging. The Sunny Money system includes enough wire length to allow the panel to be outside in the sun, the battery pack in the shade and the lamp suspended from the center of the room. Solar Aid has found that rural Africans prefer their system to the cheaper plastic lanterns because the hanging light looks more like the grid powered lighting they’ve seen in cities.
Another cool thing about the Sunny Money system versus those others is that the panel can be used to power a radio directly from the sun and they are working on a cheap circuit to be able to also charge cell phones. With these additional applications the Sunny Money is more than a solar lighting system, it is really a nano-scale home power PV system.
The Sunny Money system is intended to be a cleaner, cost-effective alternative to the village-made kerosene lamps like this:
or like this one made from a recycled light bulb. I think this is kind of an ironic design choice.
Solar Aid gets some support and funding from Solar Century, “the UK’s leading provider of solar photovoltaic (PV) solutions”. Part of that support is help from Solar Century’s marketing department, who came up with these ads for the Sunny Money product: