Power to the People - Solar Lighting Program
EMPOWERMENT THROUGH SOLAR ELECTRICITY
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SOLAR LIGHTING PROGRAM

"Luces Para Mi Hogar"

Program Overview
The Solar Lighting Program provides high-quality affordable solar lighting solutions to families living in rural areas of Nicaragua. This program compliments Power to the People's core projects of installing off-grid photovoltaic systems on community buildings in rural areas of the developing world, by helping to bring solar lights and cell phone charging to households in the communities we work in.

Problem
Many families in rural areas of Nicaragua burn candles, wood or kerosene for lighting which can be expensive, flammable and can cause poor air quality.  Families have to travel long distances by foot or bus to replenish their fuel source, wasting time and money.

Proposed Solution
Solar lights significantly decrease household spending on burnable energy sources.  The money families save over time can buy other well-needed items like food, school uniforms and medicine.  Solar lights also reduce the risk of injury, respiratory illness, and time spent gathering and using wood, kerosene and candles.  Some solar lights can also charge cell phones, further saving a family time and money. 

Overall, solar lights are:

  • more economical
  • safer and better for your health
  • better for the environment
  • time savers
  • a place to charge cell phones
  • better and more consistent lighting sources

Distribution
The solar lights are distributed by women in the communities we work in, that sign up to become solar salespeople.  They buy the lights at cost and sell them in their communities for a small markup, creating an additional income source for their family and providing an affordable and clean lighting source for their neighbors and friends.  The lights are displayed in a catalog showing the retail price and the product feature and benefits. ┬áThe lights are not donated and no micro-finance model is used, making the distribution simple, fair and affordable.

About the Solar Lights
We understand that there are a range of needs and income levels in rural Nicaragua, so our Solar Lighting Program offers more than only solar lighting option.  We give families a range of solar lighting products to choose from so they can make the right choice given their budget and needs.

  • The Nokero light is a simple LED light in the shape of a lightbulb that is powered by a small photovoltaic cell integrated into the light itself.  The light is charged by putting it in the sunshine during the day and is portable and easy to use.  The Nokero light does not include cell phone charging but is an affordable light for many people that live in towns that have no cell phone access or that can only afford this lighting option.
  • The SunKing Pro light includes a small 1.5W solar module, a half-globe light, and a cell phone charger.  By placing the module in the sun, a family can leave the light inside and it will charge during the day without having to remember to bring the unit outside each day.  It comes with a simple metal stand so the light can rest on a table helping to illuminate a surface for reading better than a light that hangs from the ceiling.  It’s simple design makes it easy to use and a numerical display on the bottom of the light indicates the amount of time you can use the light before the batteries need to be recharged by the sun.  It emits a bright light that is soft, making it more pleasant to see by than other LED lighting options. 
  • The Pico light is the premium lighting option we will offer.  It is a larger well-designed light that can be hung from the ceiling or used a flashlight and it includes three light levels and cell phone charging.  The kit comes with a small 3W photovoltaic module that can be placed in the sun while the light stays in the house.  The touch sensitive buttons and remote switch make the light easy to turn on and off and the glow in the dark rim make the light easy to find if the lights are turned out.  This light provides a nice quality light and the 3W solar module charges the light faster than the other options.

How do we keep the price so low?
For-profit companies are driven by profit so the products they sell are marked up in order for a business model to make sense.  Unlike for-profit companies, Power to the People is a non-profit organization and our motivation is to get as many solar lights to families that need them in a sustainable way.  We are able to provide the lights to rural families at cost because we don’t need to make a profit.  Through generous donations from people that support our mission, we are able to cover our overhead expenses that are necessary to run our Solar Lighting Program.  These include things like fuel and transportation costs to deliver the lights in the community, office and marketing expenses, and supporting a full-time Nicaraguan project manager to run the solar lighting program.  Overall, our overhead expenses are much lower than a for-profit company since Power to the People is all volunteer run in the US. We do our absolute best to keep our costs to a minimum so your donation goes as far as possible and so families living without lights and power can afford a high-quality solar light.

Why aren’t we giving the lights away? 
Many non-profits donate lights and other products to individual households. We believe that this not only increases dependency on foreign aid, but there is no transfer or skills, it competes with local business, and it encourages individuals to ask for handouts rather than pursue job opportunities.  Besides ‘basic need’ items like food, water, and shelter, responsible international development should always work towards empowering individuals by taking into account the long-term effects of the program being offered.

Why solar lights?
Families in rural Nicaragua that live off of the electric grid currently use candles, kerosene lamps, wood, battery-powered flashlights and lanterns, and gas or diesel generators to see at night.  All of these options are harmful to the environment and require ongoing financial inputs (fuel, batteries, candles) which means they are expensive and contribute to local pollution.  By using LED lights, advanced battery technologies and photovoltaic cells, the total cost of ownership of solar lights is lower than other the locally available alternatives and much better for the environment. 

We’ve done our research by testing many solar lighting options ourselves, ensuring that the light is a high-efficiency LED, the batteries are replaceable, the light level is bright enough, and the products will last when used in a tropical climate.  We’ve chosen the products that are the highest quality with the best price and are the most sustainable for the long term.

Good quality lighting increases safety by enabling people to see, it prevents eyesight degradation from trying to see by candlelight at night, it makes it possible for people read and do homework and it allows families to work at home and perform other tasks that are not possible to do once the sun goes down.

Cell phone charging
Around the world today, it is not uncommon for someone to own a cell phone but have no electricity in their house or their community.  Millions of people in this situation must find a way to charge their phones and this often involves traveling to a nearby city with electricity and paying a shop owner a fee to plug in. Many solar lights also offer cell charging so families will not have to travel to another town and pay a fee to charge their cell phones.

 

SPECIAL THANKS TO OUR SPONSORS:

 

 

 

Help bring solar lights to rural families in Nicaragua. Thank you for your support!

 

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Nokero solar light

 

 

SunKing Pro solar light

 

 

Pico solar light

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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