Here in the US, solar gadgets like the Solio Classic or the Generator from Voltaic Systems are play toys of the eco-chic. While they are fun to use in the city, or perhaps even useful on a camping trip, Americans can plug into the grid anytime to power up and play on. With electricity so abundant, it is hard for us to imagine living a life that stops simply because the sun goes down. Just turn on a light, right?
For the nearly 3 billion people living in developing countries like India, Ghana and Kenya, the only lights available after sunset are from kerosene lamps, candles or battery powered devices. For families with limited incomes, these options are not only expensive, their range of use is very limited and they can be dangerous. Timbuk2 and Duron are two companies trying a more sustainable approach to providing these people with a few extra hours of reliable LED light, by using affordable solar cells.
Timbuk2 Designs along with the Portable Light Project and Poptech.org have come together to create what they are calling the FLAP bag (Flexible Light And Power). The key component of this design is a removable flap that contains a flexible solar panel (either 2-Watt or 4-Watt), battery and 2-Watt LED sewn in. A 3 or 6 hour charge will yield 10 hours of light, which can give ambient light from the metallic reflective surface on underside of the flap (watch this video). You can also charge electronic devices from a USB port. It will be available later this year.
The Duron system takes a more static approach. This $130 system, created by the energy company Duron, uses a 5-Watt solar panel to charge up a durable battery base station. A full charge takes a full sunny day. It comes with three ultra bright LEDs, that can be placed in different parts of a residence, for about 2.5 hours of reliable and more useful evening light. Like the FLAP bag, the base has a variety of plug-ins for charging cell phones.
Duron's website features a customer spotlight, Anil Singh, which not only shares his satisfaction with the Duron, but how easily these types of technologies will spread in the night sky.
Photos from duron.co.in, and Erik Hersman from afrigadget.com