In Uttar Pradesh, one of India's poorest states, a pair of US-born entrepreneurs is creating a new model for energy delivery to villages far from the grid. The founders of Mera Gao Power build and operate solar-powered micro grids to provide low-cost lighting and mobile phone charging to village houses, giving many rural people access to both light and power for the first time in their lives.
For many villagers in off-grid areas in India, their only source of light after dark comes through kerosene powered lanterns, which can cause serious health issues, both from the fumes released while burning, and the chance that children may accidentally drink the kerosene. So when Nikhil Jaisinghani and Brian Shaad give them the opportunity to have LED lighting to replace the dirty kerosene lights, plus a way to charge their mobile phones, they also give them a way to change their lives.
Households that sign up to the services of Mera Gao receive two to four LED lights and a mobile-charging point in their home at a cost of just $0.50 per week, plus a one-time setup cost, which is an affordable price for most of their potential customers.
"Quality, dependable light transforms lives; children are able to study at night, adults are able to earn additional income, and indoor air quality is improved. Our services benefit women who traditionally spend more time working indoors and children who accidentally drink kerosene and inhale its fumes." - Mera Gao Power
Mera Gao Power's low energy design calls for just four solar panels for each system, which are sufficient to supply a village of 100 households with both light and mobile charging. And because most light is used at night, but generated during the day, banks of four batteries are used to store up to two days of power are also installed near the panels. Power is then distributed from the batteries to the other households in the village.
The company has received enough investment funding from USAid to set up 50 villages this year, but according to the Guardian, their aim is to power 100,000 households with their solar micro grids by 2016. In order to scale up to that level, Mera Gao Power will need to go through more investment rounds in the near future.