News

    Solar Powered LEDs Light Up Developing Nations

    This solar panel will be installed in an LED system in an Ecuadorian village
    This solar panel will be installed in an LED system in an Ecuadorian village
    Rosanne Skirble

    What do traffic lights, remote control devices and cell phone displays have in common?  The answer is light emitting diodes or LEDs. LEDs produce as much light as incandescent light bulbs but consume only 10 percent of the electricity and last many times longer.  This is the story of how one man combined LEDs with solar energy technology to bring high-quality, low-cost electric light to poor people around the world. 

    Some 1.6 billion people lack access to electricity

    Dave Irvine-Halliday works one house at a time in Mexico to install LED lighting
    Dave Irvine-Halliday works one house at a time in Mexico to install LED lighting

    In 1996 Canadian professor David Irvine-Halliday was on a work trip in Nepal when his return flight was canceled. It would be weeks before he could catch another flight home, but the delay gave him time to hike the Annapurna Circuit, a 14-day trek through the Himalayas.  One day, wandering past a school he heard children singing.  He looked in the window and wondered how, without light, the kids could study.  Sadly, he realized, these conditions are common in poor countries. Some 1.6 billion people in the world have no access to electricity.

    LEDs can replace expensive and polluting kerosene lamps
    LEDs can replace expensive and polluting kerosene lamps

    People who aren't connected to the electric grid often get their light from kerosene, candles or burning wood. But, the products are expensive, produce only dim light and generate polluting fumes that cause health and environmental problems.  Responding to the need for safe, clean and affordable lighting, Irvine-Halliday set to work on a solution. 

    LEDs turn out to be a bright idea

    Back in his laboratory at the University of Calgary, Alberta, he experimented with light emitting diodes, technology he was familiar with as a professor of renewable energy. "I knew that they were virtually indestructible.  They lasted for decades because they were putting them under the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, and they were going to be there for years and years and years working for 24 hours a day," he says.

    Irvine-Halliday settled on a one watt bright white light, a Japanese product he discovered on the Internet. Startled by the intense beam he generated when he rigged the diode to his bike generator, he recalls saying to his partner, "Good God, a child could read by the light of a single diode."

    Girls in Sierra Leone read by the light of a single watt LED
    Girls in Sierra Leone read by the light of a single watt LED

    In 2000, Irvine-Halliday returned to Nepal to put the system in homes. He first used pedal power, then turned to hydro and finally turned to solar power generation. The single watt solar LED package works, Irvine-Halliday told Capitol Hill staffers at a recent meeting in Washington, because it is affordable, clean and easy to set up and maintain. "The one-time cost of our system - which consists of a small solar panel, a little motorcycle-sized battery and a couple of LED lamps, is less than one hundred dollars," he says.  He adds that's about the same as the cost of kerosene for a year. 

    Villagers get micro-loans to buy lighting systems

    Boys help assemble an LED system
    Boys help assemble an LED system

    What started as a family project has emerged as the Light Up the World Foundation, which has reached 25,000 people in 51 countries. Initially systems were given away. Today, growing numbers of villagers are purchasing and maintaining the equipment.   "Our short term goal for the next couple of years is that 80 percent of all the systems that Light up the World is involved [with] will be via micro-credit," Irvine-Halliday says, "where the villager borrows from local micro-credit organizations and pays them back."

    The organization has made a difference in people's lives beyond Irvine-Halliday's expectations.

    Acquiring this simple and non-polluting form of electric light, he points out, promotes education, public health, economic security and a cleaner environment.  In January, he will retire from his day job at the University of Calgary.  He's also decided to give up leadership in Light up the World Foundation to start a company in India that will develop a more energy-efficient and cheaper lighting system that he hopes will bring even more light to the world's poor. 

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora