Micro-scale home lighting systems with SolarAid Tanzania

SolarAid's vision for an African solar village
SolarAid's vision for an African solar village - click to see the details, how many solar panels do you see?

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:

Mason Huffine is the tall guy in the middle
Mason is the tall guy in the middle

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.

Sunny Money panel and lamp
Sunny Money panel and lamp

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.

Mason Huffine shows off SolarAid TZ's lamp collection
Mason Huffine shows off SolarAid TZ's lamp collection

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.

Sunny Money panel directly powering a radio
Sunny Money panel directly powering a radio

The Sunny Money system is intended to be a cleaner, cost-effective alternative to the village-made kerosene lamps like this:

tin can kerosene lamps
tin can kerosene lamps

or like this one made from a recycled light bulb.   I think this is kind of an ironic design choice.

recycled light bulb kerosene lamp
recycled light bulb kerosene lamp

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:

Sunny Money advertisements
Sunny Money advertisements

46 thoughts on “Micro-scale home lighting systems with SolarAid Tanzania

  1. I’m a tanzania man living in morogoro town.
    I’m looking for solar power for my house for lighting,refrigirator,TV,radio.i have tried to get that fron nation power Tanesco it fails I would like to know the total price for installation and if there is guarantee
    thank you

    1. Hi mr Rwechungura, have seen your posting looking for the solay system to give you lights and be able to power your tv. so far i can provide that system for all your lighting requirement and tv but for refrigerator we have solar one which wont be part of the package. for me to be able to give you the quatation just give me enough information on how many lights do you need and tv then will give you equipment that am sure will be within your budget.

  2. I am Tanzania Woman aged 50 years trying to keep a poulty faming in a rural area in bagamoyo and I need to use sola for the project and my house to rum the lighting system and one Refrigerator, freezer and a television. Please help me how to go about it

  3. Trying to make contact with organization in Tanzania. Please let me know how to reach director(s) so I may post a story. Thank you.

  4. Dear Sir
    I live in South Africa. I would like to import your wonderful SunnyMoney concept and sell it in South Africa. Can you assist me.
    With thanks
    Mahendra Naidoo

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