Portable Light Project Brings Solar Power to World’s Poor

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BOSTON – In the Western world power outages are generally a minor inconvenience. Usually resolved within a few hours or a day, many people see those brief periods without electricity as an exciting disruption to their day, perhaps letting them take a hour away from work because the Internet is down.

For others in the world, lack of power is a daily challenge. One-fifth of the world’s population lives every day without electricity—a problem that deeply affects their health, education, and everyday living.

Even with power grids being built in these developing nations, the access to electricity can be spotty at best, leaving the world’s poor continually in the dark. One answer to this issue is found is the Portable Light Project, which strives to provide a way for people in developing countries to create and own a solar light source. The Portable Light Project uses highly efficient and mobile solar textiles to improve economic development, healthcare and education with this renewable energy.

The Portable Light system takes a bright LED light, flexible solar panels and a battery case with a USB 2.0 port to create a clean energy source. By utilizing the solar panels to harness energy, the device can power an LED light for 20 hours with a full battery, which is completely charged after six hours of sunlight. With the USB 2.0 port, users can charge cell phones, medical tools, or any device that is USB-enabled. In the evening, the bright white LED light makes it possible for users to read or even light up a room for continued work and study time.

This project also brings an economic advancement into play by creating a kit that includes the solar panels, LED light and USB power plug, which can then be used by local textile crafters to create their own Portable Light system either as a small blanket, bag, or other textile creation.

“Through this collaboration process, Portable Light directly benefits local economies by creating jobs for weavers, community sewing groups, tailors and local entrepreneurs, and promotes ownership and stewardship of low carbon, clean energy technology worldwide,” says the project’s website.

This innovative design and focus on clean energy is carried into the manufacturing process for the Portable Light system, which has been designed to produce low carbon emissions. Additionally, the device does not have heavy, bulky or highly breakable parts, so production, shipping and transport does not consume as much fuel.

Portable Light developers first sparked the idea for this innovative device with one question: What if light and energy were dissolved into a portable textile? 8 years later, Portable Light offers a flexible shape that can be woven directly into local textile practices to create bags and blankets that are functional in more ways than one. Bringing this device to poor areas without electricity not only creates a clean, renewable light source, but also provides jobs for textile weavers, the ability to charge tools, and, most importantly, hope for a future with power.

Georganne Hassell

Sources: Portable Light, Fast Company, Mashable
Photo: Engineering for Change

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