Solar LED lamps provide clean, cheap lighting to rural poor

A handful of villagers in rural India are receiving a life-transforming technology: low-cost, solar-powered light-emitting diode (LED) lamps. Bombay-based Grameen Surya Bijli Foundation has installed the $55 lamps free of charge in about 300 homes. “Children can now study at night, elders can manage their chores better,” says one father whose family received a lamp. “Life doesn’t halt anymore when darkness falls.” As many as 1.5 billion people worldwide light their homes after dark with dim, smoky kerosene-burning lamps, which emit air pollutants thought to cause over a million deaths every year. LEDs are far more efficient than incandescent bulbs, and the solar-powered lamps eliminate indoor pollution from burning candles, paraffin, or kerosene. Says electrical engineering professor Dave Irvine-Halliday, “This technology can light an entire rural village with less energy than that used by a single conventional 100-watt light bulb.”