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October 19, 2006

MightyLight — Solar-Powered Waterproof Portable LED Light with 12-Hour Runtime


You'd think something like that would cost a fortune if it existed.

But you'd be wrong on both counts: Over 5,000 of them have been sold for $50 apiece to various charities to distribute worldwide.

Up top is one in action.

A story about recent innovations in low-cost, low-power LED lighting appeared in the September 23, 2006 Technology Quarterly supplement of the Economist, and follows.

    Lighting up the World

    The greatest impact of LED-based lighting could be in developing countries, where it can be powered by batteries or solar panels

    While trekking in Nepal in 1997, Dave Irvine-Halliday was struck by the plight of rural villagers having to rely on smelly, dim and dangerous kerosene lanterns to light their homes. Hoping to make a difference, Dr Irvine-Halliday, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Calgary in Canada, founded the Light Up The World Foundation. The non-profit organisation has since helped to distribute low-power, white light-emitting diodes (LEDs), at low cost or free, to thousands of people around the globe.

    About 1.6 billion people worldwide are without access to electricity and have to rely on fuel-based sources for lighting. But burning fuel is not only extremely expensive — $40 billion is spent on off-the-grid lighting in developing countries a year — it is also highly inefficient and contributes to indoor air pollution and the emission of greenhouse gases. If people switched from using fuel-based lamps to solar-powered LEDs, carbon-dioxide emissions could be reduced by up to 190m tonnes per year, reckons Evan Mills, a staff scientist at America's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. That is equivalent to one-third of Britain's annual carbon-dioxide emissions.

    LEDs are an ideal off-the-grid light source because they need so little power. They can be run on AA batteries, or batteries recharged using small solar arrays. Compared with kerosene lanterns, LEDs can deliver up to 100 times more useful light to a task, besides being extremely long-lasting. All this adds up to a life-changing impact for the lamps' owners, ranging from increased work productivity, more time to study at night and reduced health problems and fire hazards.

    Several firms are getting ready to tap into this underserved market. Cosmos Ignite Innovations, a spin-out from Stanford University that is now based in New Delhi, India, has developed the MightyLight, a solar-powered LED-based lamp that is waterproof, portable and runs for up to 12 hours. So far, Cosmos has sold nearly 5,000 of its $50 lamps to various charities.

    Another company, Better Energy Systems of Berkeley, California, is testing LED add-ons that might work well with its Solio, a portable solar array that can also be used to charge mobile phones and other devices.

    The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private-sector investment arm of the World Bank, recently secured $5.4m in financing for “Lighting the Bottom of the Pyramid”, a four-year initiative that will engage lighting manufacturers with pilot projects in Kenya and Ghana.

    One task is to make LEDs affordable, says Dr Mills, who is a consultant on the IFC project. Households in rural Kenya, for example, spend an average of $7 a month on kerosene for lighting. Although the cost of a solar-powered LED lamp over its lifetime is much less than the cumulative cost of fuel, many people cannot afford the initial $25 to $50 outlay for such a lamp. If that hitch could be ironed out — via microfinance, perhaps — the payoff could be bright.



The MightyLight (above) is $50 here.

October 19, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink


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Hi,kindly inform me on where to buy the solar powered lamp in kenya-nairobi.thanks

Posted by: martrin kinyua | Oct 21, 2008 6:50:40 PM

Greetings, I am a former US diplomat - I now run a firm providing solar lighting to Africa - I am also working with the IFC and Evan Mills. Please check out my site - I welcome comments and questions - and I just got in 10,000 lights and they sell for $25 for two - as further explained on my site. I am a small business owner and I am based in Houston.

All the best - Mark

Posted by: Mark Bent | Jan 22, 2007 10:57:13 PM

Here's my informal consumer report: In Nov 2006, I bought 3 MightyLights even though the shipping charges from India were very hefty. I wanted one for a charity in Haiti, one to demo to anyone interested, and one for myself. I've tried it around the house and on a camping trip, and am very pleased with it so far (3 months later). But I sure wouldn't recommend it for widespread use until both the price and shipping costs come down.

Posted by: christine | Jan 21, 2007 2:25:45 PM

SolarElectro has developed a low-tech LED-light. The vision and hope is that the production of the lights will be done by smallest entreprices of welders and solders. The 2x 27LED-lamp has 3AA rechargable batteries and can be charged by a 2Watt solar panel. It is very low-budget in design as well and allows the use of local material.

Posted by: SolarElectro, Nairobi | Nov 3, 2006 1:57:32 PM

I really liked the idea of the LED lantern. Unfortunately the $50.00 price does not include shipping from India. A much cheaper and more versatile alternative would be to use a solar battery charger and an off the shelf LED lantern. Just a quick check on Google yielded these:

Cabela's tent LED light good for 35 hours of use before recharging the batteries. $12.99


Raytech's solar battery charger $17.50

By separating the solar battery charger from the light you gain the advantage of using any type of battery powered device as well as having extra backup batteries.

Posted by: Ken | Oct 19, 2006 1:58:43 PM

This is so great. I'm all for lighting up the world with LEDs -- being one who has more LED flashlights and gizmos than Gyro Gearloose, safe lighting is kind of a passion of mine. Wonderful, wonderful.

And speaking of LED flashlights, it's an excellent idea to always carry one in your car. And if possible, in your pocketbook or on your person. A three watt one with a really powerful beam is small and extremely lightweight -- you don't have to pack a heavy six D cell job in your pocketbook (unless you plan to use it as a weapon). Oh yeah, also, especially if you're female and do lots of driving alone -- you never know when you might HAVE to walk a stretch, and something I learned from a cop friend: Always carry a pair of walking shoes in your car, and, ideally, a set of dark-colored sweatpants and big baggy hooded (to cover hair) sweatshirt with "Marines" or "Army" or nothing at all (as opposed to "Hello Kitty", etc.) printed on the back in case you're ever really stuck and hoofing it in three-inch heels and a party frock wouldn't be too wise. It'll probably never happen but keeping an emergency kit in the car is no hardship. Just saying.

Posted by: Flautist | Oct 19, 2006 11:41:37 AM

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