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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora