Solar power

Lighting up lives

For many people in developing countries, modern energy is completely inaccessible, and yet the problems they face daily are unsolvable without it.

The most powerful natural energy resource is the Sun. Solar technology uses this to provide communities with the electrical energy that they need. Practical Action are using solar power to operate simple technologies which are changing the lives of so many people for the better.

Water pumps

In drought-stricken areas, women must walk miles to find water, risking rape, animal attack or even death at the hands of militia, in order to sustain their families and animals. They do this with the sickening knowledge that the water they have collected may well make their children very ill.

Working with community members, Practical Action developed a solar powered water pump capable of pumping up to 10,000 litres of clean water per hour.

Using the overabundance of sunshine, the solar pump draws water from a 100 metre deep well, providing families with the water that they desperately need and rendering cases of water-related diseases a thing of the past.

More about solar-powered water pumps

Solar photovoltaic technology

When night falls and natural light fades, there is no electrical supply to light up homes, streets and classrooms. Children cannot see to learn and adults cannot see to work. Practical Action’s solution is solar power - solar lanterns, solar flashlights and solar street lights can charge through the day using the sun’s rays and provide hours of light after dark.

The lights are connected to solar panels which then sit on an open and un-shaded spot such as a roof. These panels then convert sunlight to energy which charges the battery built into the equipment.

Solar power can also be used to run other pieces of equipment such as computers and refrigerators.

Renewable energy village, Nepal

The village of Chepang Gaun in rural Nepal can only be reached by single-track earthen paths. To light their homes, local families used to have to buy kerosene from markets down the mountainside. This was both time-consuming and costly – with families typically spending 300 rupees a month on fuel. In addition, the kerosene lamps are dangerous, particularly for young children.

In 2007, Practical Action helped the community to install 58 solar powered WLED (White Light Emitting Diode) lamps in 29 households which provide 4w of light per night. When fully charged, these lamps can provide 4-5 hours of power.

Kul Bahadur Chepang is married with one daughter and two sons. Their home now benefits from two WLED lamps. Family life has significantly improved through access to clean, reliable energy: one lamp is used to help improve cooking and the other lamp is used to enable the children to study. Now they can read and study in the evening because the light is much better quality than that which kerosene lamps provide.

Previously, Kul Bahadur’s children would go to bed as soon as darkness fell. He is already seeing the difference that the WLED lamps are making: "These lights are not only improving my children’s study habits, they are also helping me to save money that I used to spend on kerosene. Practical Action has helped to show us the way towards light." The advantages of the lamps are ensuring that villagers have a real interest in keeping the systems well-maintained for the future.

Energy is a powerful solution to poverty and the use of energy technologies will help millions of people escape destitution. Renewable energy is even better. Simple and easy schemes can – and already do – give people a way out of poverty forever.

click here to donate online via secure serverHowever, we cannot change people’s lives without your help. Just £38 will provide a family with a smart solar power system. Please, if you can, make a donation.

You cam downloadTechnical briefs and practical guides to using solar energy from Practical Answers, the technical information service of Practical Action, or you can submit an enquiry to the Practical Action staff via the online form.

the Glowstar solar lantern website

illustrated guide to the solar lantern

in depth paper on solar power

Sollatek, Practical Action Consulting's partner in manufacturing the solar lantern

Solar Thermal Energy

Solar thermal energy and applications of solar thermal energy such as heating, drying and water distillation.

Solar Distillation

Solar distillation is the process of removing salts and other impurities using the energy of sun to get a pure water for drinking.

Solar Photovoltaic Energy

Solar photovoltaic energy and a brief description regarding the technology that converst sunlight directly into electricity.

Solar Photovoltaic Waterpumping

Understand the advantages and disadvantages of solar photovoltaic water pumping are outlined in this document including real world application.

Solar Photovoltaic Refrigeration of Vaccines

Solar photovolatic power for refrigerators has great potential for lower running costs, greater reliability and a longer working life.

Solar Photovoltaic System Design Info Sheet

Solar photovoltaic system design info sheet provides a quick and easy explanation of PV selection process and covers electrical design issues.

Solar Water Heating

Solar water heaters generally employ a solar collector and a storage tank and provide hot water for washing and heating.

Solar Energy: A Reference Guide for Users

A manual organised as a reference guide for those who would like to know more about solar energy, the uses and implementation.

Solar Drying in Peru

Bruno Caracchini has followed up on his idea of producing and marketing dehydrated fruit. His business is in the pilot stage.

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