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Lighting a Third of the World: Development and Demonstration of LED Lighting Units with Community-Based Power Charging

A large portion of the world’s population currently does not have access to clean and reliable sources of artificial lighting which is vital for furthering one’s education, enabling some income generating activities as well as providing a richer and healthier family and community environment.  Currently over two billion people in the world go without lighting or use unhealthy and polluting lighting sources such a kerosene lamps, candles, or other unsustainable fuel based lights.  In fact, approximately 33% of the world energy use for lighting is by kerosene lighting alone.  Rural families spend a significant portion of their income on kerosene fuel for lighting.  Many families in the world can spend as much as $8-15 per month, which is substantial considering that most rural incomes are below $2/day per person.


Community Charging StationBesides the economic and poor light quality issues of fuel based lighting systems, these systems also pose a huge environmental problem.  The entire world’s use of kerosene lighting emits more than 200 million tons of CO2 per year.  During a recent global lighting study, Evan Mills of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory concluded that “The single-greatest way to reduce the greenhouse-gas emissions associated with lighting energy use is to replace kerosene lamps with white-LED electric systems in developing countries; this can be accomplished even while dramatically increasing currently deficient lighting service levels.”  Although there has been significant progress in the development of LED applications, most work has been geared towards the developed world applications with little focus lighting technologies for kerosene users.  For these reasons, SEL’s goal is to develop improved options for artificial lighting for the developing world that will not only have lower long-term operating costs but will also reduce the negative impact on the local and global environment associated with fuel combustion while also creating local wealth generating opportunities.   With the support of the EPA P3 program a multidisciplinary engineering student team has designed, built, and conducted preliminary tests of a prototype white-LED lighting system and community based charging system.