Working on the ground has shown us that large-scale solar panel installations in rural areas fail. People only see the part where off-the-shelf, brand new lights are bought, but two to three years down the road, most of them end up in landfills. If a solar battery dies or a simple part breaks, they are difficult and expensive to replace or repair, especially without microcredit or aid. The result is developing countries’ continued dependence on imported solutions to solve local problems. This becomes even more severe during national disasters. With communication and transportation networks down, communities become isolated from assistance and vulnerable to increased crime and security issues. With no light at night, women, the elderly and children are susceptible to rape, violence, and restricted movement.
Rather than relying on large-scale, imported, or patented technologies, the Liter of Light creates a decentralized grassroots green solar lighting movement based on the principle that anyone can become a solar engineer through community-built solar battery kit for solar reading lanterns, mobile chargers and street lights. Micro solar panels, solarettes and other electronic parts, which are widely available, are assembled by local communities. With a simple circuit panel, drill, and soldering, a solar LED night light is built and installed in homes or in public areas.
Most proposed solutions bring technologies to energy-poor communities through top-down approaches, importing consumer models without turning over skills or ways to repair the technology, with at least 70% of production costs spent on logistics. When batteries or parts fail, it is too expensive or difficult to get repairs done, and most are left to deteriorate.
Through producing easily repairable solar lights with locally available parts, Liter of Light increase communities’ self-reliance by integrating a livelihood model with the capacity to quickly assemble lights rather than diverting almost 70 percent of production costs on logistics from overseas. Our solar products are currently built and assembled at about 1/3 of the present cost of other products on the market. Even with this lower cost, about 20% is retained as a livelihood. The output produced will be given to the village, and more importantly, knowledge will be transferred so that the community can maintain and repair their units once the Liter of Light team leaves.
Rather than depending on imported, patented, and expensive technologies, we believe that everyone can be a solar engineer.