Nav: Home

A bright future with solar lanterns for India's poor

April 27, 2009

Solar energy has the potential to improve the living conditions of poor rural households in India as well as contribute to the country's future energy security, according to Professor Govindasamy Agoramoorthy from Tajen University, who is Tata-Sadguru Visiting Chair, and Dr. Minna Hsu from the National Sun Yat-sen University in Taiwan. Their study1, looking at the benefits of solar lanterns on the livelihoods of village communities in Western India, as well as sustainable use of the environment, has just been published online in Springer's journal Human Ecology.

In India, approximately 70 percent of rural areas lack electricity and over 60 percent of rural households use kerosene lamps for lighting. Kerosene lamps are not only expensive, they are also inefficient, potentially dangerous and a major source of greenhouse gases. Interestingly, the average number of sunny days in India ranges from 250 to 300 days a year, with a solar energy equivalent greater than the country's total energy consumption. Energy efficiency is critical to nations such as India with large and growing populations. Solar lanterns, which make the most of the country's natural and abundant sunshine, could be a practical and clean energy alternative to kerosene lamps in village communities.

Sadguru Foundation, a non-profit agency specializing in natural resources management in India, supplied 100 solar lanterns to socially and economically disadvantaged households in 25 villages in the Dahod District of the Gujarat State between January 2004 and December 2007. Agoramoorthy and Hsu studied the effects of using solar lanterns on energy usage, household savings in terms of kerosene and electricity costs, as well as the family's quality of life. The women in the households were interviewed a month before and again a month after the introduction of the solar lanterns.

Overall, expenditure on kerosene and electricity dropped significantly in all households, after the solar lanterns were introduced. On average each household made important savings ranging from 150 to 250 US dollars annually. Whereas both households above and below the poverty level used a similar amount of electricity before the lanterns were introduced, after their introduction households below the poverty level used significantly less electricity than those above the poverty level.

The researchers also found that the solar lanterns particularly benefited school-aged children and women. Although 70 percent of the villages are connected to the power grid, they do not receive power early in the morning or in the evening because the state power company redirects electricity to major towns and cities. However, with the six hours of light supplied daily by the solar lanterns, study hours increased which had a positive influence on the children's performance at school. Women were also able to perform their routine household work both indoors and outdoors during power outages.

The authors conclude that "the use of solar energy will contribute to India's future energy security, particularly in rural areas where the technology that converts sunlight directly into electricity offers a decentralized alternative to uncertain electricity supplies. If implemented efficiently, renewable energy projects could not only improve the quality of life for India's rural poor but also enhance sustainable use of the environment."
-end-
Reference

1. Agoramoorthy G & Hsu MJ (2009). Lighting the lives of the impoverished in India's rural and tribal drylands. Human Ecology; DOI 10.1007/s10745-009-9224-7

Springer

Related Solar Energy Articles:

Materials that can revolutionize how light is harnessed for solar energy
Columbia scientists designed organic molecules capable of generating two excitons per photon of light, a process called singlet fission.
Solar energy becomes biofuel without solar cells
Soon we will be able to replace fossil fuels with a carbon-neutral product created from solar energy, carbon dioxide and water.
20 overlooked benefits of distributed solar energy
A study released today provides the most complete list yet of the advantages of solar energy -- from carbon sequestration to improvements for pollinator habitat.
Window film could even out the indoor temperature using solar energy
A window film with a specially designed molecule could be capable of taking the edge off the worst midday heat and instead distributing it evenly from morning to evening.
Danish researchers create worldwide solar energy model
For any future sustainable energy system, it is crucial to know the performance of photovoltaic (solar cell) systems at local, regional and global levels.
Breakthrough in new material to harness solar power could transform energy
The UToledo physicist pushing the performance of solar cells to levels never before reached made a significant breakthrough in the chemical formula and process to make the new material.
Novel thermoelectric nanoantenna design for use in solar energy harvesting
In an article published in the SPIE Journal of Nanophotonics (JNP), researchers from a collaboration of three labs in Mexico demonstrate an innovative nanodevice for harvesting solar energy.
Improving the lifetime of bioelectrodes for solar energy conversion
The use of proteins involved in the photosynthetic process enables the development of affordable and efficient devices for energy conversion.
Caffeine gives solar cells an energy boost
Scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Solargiga Energy in China have discovered that caffeine can help make a promising alternative to traditional solar cells more efficient at converting light to electricity.
Racial inequality in the deployment of rooftop solar energy in the US
Although the popularity of rooftop solar panels has skyrocketed because of their benefits to consumers and the environment, the deployment has predominantly occurred in white neighborhoods, even after controlling for household income and home ownership, according to a study by researchers from Tufts University and the University of California, Berkeley, published today in the journal Nature Sustainability.
More Solar Energy News and Solar Energy Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Risk
Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#540 Specialize? Or Generalize?
Ever been called a "jack of all trades, master of none"? The world loves to elevate specialists, people who drill deep into a single topic. Those people are great. But there's a place for generalists too, argues David Epstein. Jacks of all trades are often more successful than specialists. And he's got science to back it up. We talk with Epstein about his latest book, "Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World".
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.