A global community solar lighting initiative has been launched in South Africa for the first time with a pilot roll-out of 18 recycled “bottle power” street lamps in Somerset East.
The project is part of the community development commitment by Rome-based Enel Green Power, linked to its 88MW Nojoli Wind Farm, and has been realised with the help of the Blue Crane Municipality and the international Liter of Light movement. Nojoli is due to begin commercial operations at the end of this month.
Founded in the Philippines in 2013, the Liter of Light movement has spread around the globe with over 500000 bottle lights installed in 27 developing countries.
Enel South Africa head of sustainability Lizeka Dlepu said yesterday the communities benefiting from the project were all within a 50km radius of Nojoli.
“A group of 60 youths selected from Somerset East, Cookhouse, Adelaide and Bedford were trained on how to make the bottle lights and how to repair faults. Eighteen lights were built and one was installed. The others will be installed after further discussion with the community on where they should go.”
The second part of the launch day stayed with training but focused on how to convert kerosene lamps into safer and more sustainable solar lamps, also guided by the Liter of Light team, she said.
Liter of Light Italia vice-president Giacomo Battaini told The Herald their bottle light technology was underpinned by a simple philosophy.
“We want to teach people that they can find in waste the solutions to their energy problems.”
“A discarded plastic 2l water or cooldrink bottle provides the perfect protection for an LED globe which is recharged by a solar-powered battery. The bottle also helps to enhance the LED’s reflection,” he explained.
After being charged for three hours, the LED will typically shine for nine hours, he said.
“We have started here with public lighting as we always do in order for the community to see the potential for themselves.
“The aim is to return to help local people establish micro-enterprises geared around the maintenance of these lights and, once money is generated, paying for more to be installed in other public areas but also in homes.”
Battaini was equally passionate about his team’s drive to convert kerosene lamps to solar.
“Kerosene is the most polluting substance that there is in the lighting sector.
“You can imagine how it is in a 10m² house with no windows and the door closed to keep out the cold and you’re breathing in the fumes.
“It may also be cheap to start with – which is why people use it – but as it runs out they keep buying and buying. Solar-powered LED is much cheaper in the long run.”
In a related outreach initiative, Enel installed solar-powered IT hubs in shipping containers in Cookhouse and Bedford on Monday.
The aim is that the hubs will benefit school pupils and older youths, organisations, small businesses and the community generally, Dlepu said.
One hub has been installed in each town on zero-lease land made available by the municipality. Each hub comprises eight personal computers pre-loaded with Windows and Microsoft Office as well as “custom-designed furniture and fittings, including branded individual cubicles.
“There is also full internet connectivity via 3G/ satellite, a printer, laminator and projector, thermal insulation and ceiling fans, and vendor machines selling pre-paid airtime and electricity.”
Enel will also be training local youths to manage the hubs on a permanent daily basis, she said.
“The bottle light and IT hub projects are linked because they both speak to two key UN Sustainable Development Goals – ensuring sustainable energy for all and ensuring quality education and access to information for all.”