Environment Friendly Solar Lanterns for Rural Lighting

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

IN a country where only 9% of the total population have access to electricity, kerosene lamps (tadooba) and wax candles serve as the major providers of light in many households.

These, however, bear far-reaching health and environmental consequences, especially in rural areas. But with the recently established project to provide solar lanterns to different parts of Uganda, this risky practice will perhaps be minimised.

The project is spearheaded by Makerere University Centre for Research in Energy and Energy Conservation (CREEC), Faculty of Technology and sponsored by HORIZONT3000 – Austrian Organisation for Development Co-operation working in partnership with Ultratech Uganda Limited, dealers in energy accessories.

It aims at providing private lighting to households where electricity is not available, especially among rural communities that are far away from the national grid.

So far this project has been tested in Busabala, Wakiso where 10-15 households have been provided with subsidised solar lanterns and a charging solar system established at a central point in the community to enable the charging of the lanterns.

The idea of this project is to set up a pilot project to make use of solar energy to private lighting to households, where electricity is not available,” says Dr. Izael Da Silva, the director CREEC.

“The beneficiaries would be provided with a subsidised solar lantern and a responsible individual would be awarded, also at a subsidised cost, a charging solar system whose function would be to charge daily the 10 or 15 lanterns for the community. This service would be done at a cost,” he adds.

He says that this project would, among other advantages educate rural people about the use of Solar PV energy and provide sufficient light to enable people carry out their activities.

Other advantages include improving the living standards of rural households, providing a more affordable solution to lighting in rural areas and development of local entrepreneurs offering electricity services (charging systems for a fee). The project will be supervised by research assistants on a regular basis in order to find out its problems, advantages and disadvantages.

It is also expected to expand with the establishment of a similar project in Namulonge, 22km from Kampala.

“We have already set a quite successful project there on Light Emitting Diodes and trained technicians in the area and therefore practically all barriers of the present project will be overcome,” says Da Silva.

Already the lantern has been well received among the beneficiaries.

“At first, these lights did not work very well, but we have received a better longer lasting model. These new model lanterns are affordable.

We do not have to spend money on buying paraffin and above all, they give better light,” says Bonny Serubiri, a teacher in Busabaala and one of the beneficiaries.

Source: New Vision (Kampala), Stephen Ssenkaaba (link opens in a new window)