Archive for Solar Power

Essmart

Jackie Stenson is opening stores all over southern India to help people gain access to important household items. Jackie is a co-founder of Essmart and currently runs the American side of operations. Essmart was founded because Jackie and Diana (co-founder and over operations in India) noticed that the people of India lacked access to basic items. Among the items that Essmart provides are: clean water, lighting–including solar lighting options, and cooking equipment. Essmart is a great example of a modern social enterprise. I could not find a mantra so here is their mission statement. Essmart’s mission statement is to bring essential, life-improving products to all people, no matter who they are or where they’re from. They are really doing some amazing things for the people that they are reaching! Nothing that I can write can do them justice, please check out all the things that they provide to people in need Essmart.

Solar Schoolbags

When Thato Kgatlhanye was 18 and fresh out of high school, she knew she wanted to do something for the underprivileged communities in South Africa where she grew up. She and her friend Rea Ngwane immediately founded the social enterprise ‘Rethaka’ without a single clue what they were going to do. 2 years later, they found the idea that would impact thousands of children across South Africa.

At age 21 in 2014, Thato Kgatlhanye founded the social enterprise Repurpose Schoolbags which takes plastic bags, upcycles them into durable schoolbags, and installs solar-powered lighting on the outside. The bag charges in the sun during the day, and turns into a portable light for the children to study with at night. It is also made with reflective material so the children are easily visible to traffic on their way to and from school.

The idea was inspired by Thato’s mother and the local impoverished communities of South Africa. Thato’s mother studied by candlelight when she was a child, and usually the candle would only last until Wednesday of the school week, meaning she couldn’t study on Thursday or Friday. Currently, many children in South Africa use plastic bags as schoolbags, and don’t have adequate lighting to study after school. Thato wanted to provide a sustainable solution, and so Repurpose Schoolbags was born.

Thato plans to light up 24 African nations, and has won over $40,000 in business competitions to sustain the enterprise. Her business’s impact is growing, and she was featured on the front of Forbes in February 2016. In the future she plans to expand the concept of solar lighting to raincoats for children, but for now her organization’s focus is on getting the solar schoolbags to as many children as possible. Her work has inspired many others, and I hope to see her company featured more as her influence expands across Africa.

Photo courtesy of repurposeschoolbags.com

SunSaluter

Energy and clean, drinkable water are two privileges that we often take for granted in the United States. Energy is a luxury in some underdeveloped nations, as it is very difficult to make traditional means of conducting energy available in remote areas. Similarly, clean water is limited and not easily accessible.  SunSaluter took both of these crucial needs and created a product that addresses both of them.

Developed by Eden Full, SunSaluter is a gravity-powered device in which solar panels follow the rotation of the sun, while filtering at least four liters of water a day. Solar-powered energy panels are heavy, expensive, hard to install, and do not harvest as much energy as possible, because they do not always face the sun. The SunSaluter rotates so that it is in sync with the sun, producing 40% more energy than traditional solar panels. Furthermore, the SunSaluter is easy to install, assemble, and maintain. While the SunSaluter is collecting energy, it is also purifying water, by having a drip mechanism attached to the end of the device. This innovative product solves two extremely important issues and is so simple that even a child can operate it. So far, there have been two successful projects in Kenya, and the product will soon be used in Peru and India as well.

Eden Full is a senior in Mechanical Engineering at Princeton. Starting from a young age, she was interested in engineering and solar energy. At ten years old, Full noticed that her solar panels were not getting maximum exposure to the sun. She began to work with ideas on how to rotate the panels, and at 19, Full had developed the SunSaluter. Instead of pursuing engineering for her own pleasure, or to earn a high income, Full focuses her attention on helping other people, saying: “I don’t just want to tinker because it’s fun for me. I want it to have an impact on someone else.” Eden was able to make a difference when she was young, by applying a great invention with a great need. As young entrepreneurs, we can follow her example of identifying a problem and creating a simple and innovative way to address it.