Having access to electricity has a huge impact on people's lives, from enabling them to extend their days with lighting, to giving them a dependable method of charging their mobile phone. In many areas, the benefits of electricity that we take for granted are considered luxuries, and for 500,000 Guatemalans, just being able to turn on a light after dark for studying or working, instead of lighting a candle or kerosene lantern, is out of their reach.
Small solar power systems can (and have) been helping to improve the lives of many people in the developing world without access to the grid, but one big stumbling block to widespread adoption of these systems is their price tags. And it's not that the prices are incredibly expensive by U.S. standards, but rather that it's difficult for many of the people who need the systems (who also earn considerably less than most North Americans) to come up with the money all at once.
One Guatemalan renewable energy company believes it has the answer, in the form of a pay-as-you-go home solar energy system, and right now, they're raising money to help launch it across their country, with the help of an Indiegogo campaign.
"Approximately 520,000 homes in Guatemala are without access to electricity. This means that the productivity of the 2,600,000 people in those homes is limited by the hours of daylight. After dark, children cannot study, adults cannot work, and neighbors cannot communicate.
The vast majority of the families that we work with are subsistence farmers. They rely on candles and kerosene to light their homes. The use of these products results in excessive costs, accidental burns, and smoke inhalation. The total cost of buying candles and walking to the nearest town to pay for charging their cell phone is ~130 Quetzales per month. Our solution will cut this cost to 90 Quetzales a month empowering families to sustainably develop!"
Quetsol's big idea is their pay-as-you-go 10 W solar kit, which makes an end run around the financial entry barrier that holds many families back from having their own small solar energy installation. Users will be able to activate and manage their system using their mobile phone payment account, as when funds are transferred to their Quetsol account, they receive a passcode in reply, which unlocks the designated amount of power through the device. In this way, users pay only for the energy they need and will use, and their payments go toward purchase of the system.
The systems include a 10W solar panel, a 12V/15 amp battery, 2 LED light bulbs, and a universal mobile phone charger. A full day of charging nets about 4 to 5 hours of light, and the kits have a lifetime warranty, so replacing a battery or repairing the system is taken care of by Quetsol.
The Quetsol Indiegogo campaign only has four days left to go, and they're almost 3/5 of the way to their $50,000 goal. If you'd like to see these types of pay-as-you-go solar power systems in the hands of the people that most need them, or you'd like to sponsor a family's solar light system for a week or two, consider chipping in a couple of bucks.