Light Up the World
In celebration of UNESCO’s declaration of 2015 as the International Year of Light, the Impact Centre set out on a challenge to light up the world. This challenge was sparked by Professor Cynthia Goh who grew up in a remote part of the Philippines without electricity. Many such communities in developing countries do not have access to the electric grid. This means that after sundown, the light goes out. To tackle this ‘light poverty’, Prof. Goh mobilized her team at the Impact Centre, and the rest of U of T to design and create a practical, cost-effective lighting system for low-resource settings to help ensure access to a reliable overhead light source.
A Lighting System for Remote Communities
Since early 2015, we have been developing a solar-powered LED light bulb for installation in rural Filipino villages in 2016. The system is easy to use, charges autonomously during the day, and is affordable for the poorest communities. The batteries that power the LED bulbs are charged by a standard solar panel. The system is designed to provide good-quality light for four hours, and can be dimmed to last even longer. The fixture is permanent and requires minimal upkeep. This robust solution will enable families in rural Filipino villages to come one step closer to the same standard of living as any community that has lighting on demand.
In December 2015 we moved into the field and completed the installation of the first three alpha prototypes in villages in the province of Palawan in the Philippines. Ensuring the technology meets the needs of the end-users has been challenging, but the team has learned a lot from this initial installation. Changes to the software to allow the light to be turned on during the day as well as the need for coatings to prevent condensation on the solar panels caused by the high levels of humidity are only some of the lessons learned that will be incorporated into the next generation of the lamp. The feedback has helped improve our second-generation device. Stay tuned for our more updates!
Darkness is a reality for the 1.2 billion people without electricity. The light goes out at sundown. Thus, for 12 hours, affected families cannot engage in chores, children’s education, or business activities, resulting in billions of productive hours lost daily. Lighting systems such as the one we’ve built bring tremendous social, environmental, and economic benefits. They can extend productive hours of a household, allowing families to conduct household chores, study, and continue activities beyond sundown.
Much of the developed world takes electricity for granted and expects light by flicking a switch. But for many, lighting and electricity are a luxury. A high-quality light that does not put parents and children at risk of lung cancers, burns, and vision loss (e.g. kerosene-based lamps), should not be a luxury. It is a right.