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Solving Energy Poverty With Solar Light Bulbs: Nokero Product Review

Can solar-powered light bulbs help end energy poverty for the 1.3 billion people who live without electricity? Maybe, if Nokero has anything to say about it.

The company, whose name is derived from the phrase “no kerosene,” has launched a new series of solar-powered lights designed to replace the use of kerosene and other fuels for lighting, illuminating a brighter future for people in developing countries around the world.

Nokero sent CleanTechnica their N222-Huron and N180-Start lights for review, and we’ve got the details on two products that could empower the world’s poor to replace kerosene with clean solar-powered light.

The Energy Poverty-Kerosene Connection

Before reviewing the products, some background on why they’re important. Energy poverty refers to a cycle where people can’t access or afford reliable energy supplies, and are often forced to burn fossil fuels for simple needs like cooking or lighting at night.

This vicious cycle creates both economic and environmental hardship. Roughly 20% of the world’s population lives without access to electricity according to Nokero, and burning kerosene or other fuels for lighting can cost up to 25% of a household’s income in developing countries.

A single kerosene wick burns an estimated 80 liters of fuel, producing more than 250 kilograms of carbon dioxide per year. Multiply that across the developing world and kerosene lamps emit 270,000 tons of black carbon annually – equivalent to 240 million metric tons of CO2.

Enter solar-powered lighting. Nokero says 1.4 million solar LEDs have been sold in Africa since 2009, with sales growing more than 100% each year. Over 10 years, one solar lantern could replace 600 liters of kerosene and cut 1.5 tons of CO2 emissions, while solar lighting could save up to $800 million in avoided fuel purchases.

Nokero solar lights charging

Nokero solar lights charging image via Silvio Marcacci/CleanTechnica

Nokero N222-Huron 

That’s the clean energy potential Nokero is trying to unlock. The company was founded in 2010, has sold 500,000 of its products into 120 countries, and works with a network of non-profits to help communities break the energy poverty cycle.

The N222-Huron represents the top-end of solar-powered lighting technology and is designed to serve consumers in both developed and developing markets. Once fully charged, its LED light projects up to 50 lumens (about seven times the brightness of a kerosene lamp) for six hours on high output and up to 15 hours on the low setting.

The N222 features outlets for USB and Nokia-style cords, allowing charging from an outlet and also providing five volts at 0.3 amps to recharge mobile phones – a necessity in locations where cell phones often outnumber working toilets.

I left the N222 outside to charge for a full day, and tested it at night both inside and outside. It puts off an impressive amount of clear white light similar to a wide-field flashlight outside, and lit up the better part of a room while inside.

While I used the included stand to charge the battery, it can double as a wall mount and the light bulb features a hook to allow charging or provide light while hanging on a cable. Nokero estimates the N222’s battery will last for five years if used daily, and it is available for a suggested retail price of $45 US dollars (USD).

Nokero solar lights testing

Nokero solar lights testing image via Silvio Marcacci/CleanTechnica

Nokero N180-Start

If the N222 represents the high-end of solar lighting, the N180-Start is billed as the “world’s most affordable solar light bulb” at just $6 USD. The N180 requires two full days of charging before its first use, but once ready, it shines with a five-lumen brightness for around four hours.

I left the N180 outside for the requisite two days to fully charge, and tested it at night both inside and outside. As expected, it didn’t really provide too much illumination outside, but was a good source of clear white light inside and would be perfect for reading or other tasks by one person.

The N180 is also designed with a hook to charge while hanging from a cable, but I simply laid the bulb on the ground, solar cell up, while charging. Nokero estimates the N180’s battery will last up to two years with regular use.

Even though the N180 LED light may be better suited for personal use and roughly equals the brightness of a kerosene lamp, Nokero estimates it will pay for itself between 15 days and 2 months, depending on the end-user’s income and amount of kerosene used in a household.

Solar Power + Nokero = Clean Lighting

Taken together, the new Nokero products really lived up to their billing and I was personally impressed with how well they worked. I’ve used solar cell products before for phone charging and been disappointed, but that wasn’t the case with these lights. Kudos to the company for using clean energy innovation to try solving one of the world’s thorniest energy challenges.

Solving Energy Poverty With Solar Light Bulbs: Nokero Product Review was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 other subscribers: RSS | Facebook | Twitter.

Silvio Marcacci's picture

Thank Silvio for the Post!

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Discussions

Robert Hargraves's picture
Robert Hargraves on October 19, 2013

It’s a great accomplishment to use solar cells to provide electric power to enable night-time reading for people struck by energy poverty. Overcoming energy poverty requires more energy, however. The article does not mention the specific technology of electric energy storage, which is still very expensive, adding an order of magnitude more cost to that of the solar energy per se. Night-time reading will help people learn, understand technology, and advocate the use of energy to improve their standard of living. But solar power isn’t enough to satisfy the deep needs of electric power required for fresh water purification and distribution, for sewage processing to prevent the spread of disease, for communications, for transportation, for food processing and storage, for commerce, for industry, and for the other signatures of an improved civilization. I’m an advocate of advanced nuclear power, which can provide energy cheaper than coal, to overcome energy poverty and simultaneously reduce harmful emissions from burning fossil fuels, as demonstrated in the new book, THORIUM: energy cheaper than coal.

Jesse Jenkins's picture
Jesse Jenkins on October 20, 2013

This is a nice review Silvio. But “solving” energy poverty is a bit of a stretch! As Robert notes, it takes a lot more than a light bulb to truly solve energy poverty. Cheers,

Jesse

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on October 21, 2013

Solar lights is what got me into thinking about energy. If it wasn’t for the desire to learn Ohm’s law (on the internet) I wouldn’t now understand that the world needs nuclear. Also, solar is a perfect way for the gridless to have light…

All you need is a LiFePO4 battery (3.2v nominal which does not have the thermal issues and over twice the cycling than the other types of li-ion, despite a slightly lessor energy density), a Cree led (such as XML or XTE, because they put out between 100 and 180 lumens per watt depending on K temperature and amperage with just about 3 volts) an 8 cell (4v) mini panel, and a blocking diode (Schottky) to help prevent overcharge (past 3.6v). Consider, a little 300mA 4v panel (about 4×5 inches) will charge up 1Ah in about 4 hours (yes, more efficient than nicad or nimh) which can provide 100mA for 10 hours, or better yet, 250mA for 4 hours which is just over a hundred lumens with a nuetral white XTE (about 5,000K), plenty enough to read by because it is about 30x brighter than normal Chinese solar light (about 1/9th of a 15 watt CFL).

Yep, the world’s most efficient lighting!

A further analysis… lots of energy is expended in making and shipping all the parts such that the actual wattage of the light may never make up (perhaps no EROEI)… However, after considering what these lights can replace, will make up for themselves by many multiples (EROE wasted, in this case, trivial energy expended for the solar light in exchange for zero kerosene).

In the U.S, I have concluded that if a more powerful version was used such that they actually replaced a common grid powered CFL (15watt) bulb, 45 watts of thermal energy would be replaced. Since these things last like “forever”, years worth of fossil fueled 45 watts could be displaced. The EROEI for all the tiny parts shouldn’t be more than about 4 years, and is but a tiny fraction of the coal used otherwise.

Yep, the world’s most efficient light can already be FAR more efficient, thus a powerful concept in building a wedge for decarbonization!

 

Back to nuclear… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vI0dQd0wg0

Stephen Nielsen's picture
Stephen Nielsen on October 21, 2013

I think we can all agree that these folks are at least LESS energy poor than they wold be living in total darkness or lighting their homes with unhealthful, expensive and polluting kerosine lamps.  As promising as nuclear solutions seem to be, wouldn’t any nuclear solution, especially a thorium solution:

A. Require the building of an extensive and expensive energy distribution infrastructure?

B. Require the formation of a now nonexistent nuclear regulatory apparatus?

C. Take many years to research, site and build?

D. Place these developing nations in significant debt and make them resource dependent on outside nations?

Though solar technology is rapidly advancing, it is a truism to say that solar does not currently meet all the energy needs of the energy ravenous developed world. A nuclear future may be somewhere in the cards, but right now, for immediate needs, solar technology’s immediate availability, low skill requirements and “scale as you go” ability seems to be a best fit.

By the way, it is wholly possible and even economical for solar to treat sewerage and desalinize water as well as power cellular communications. The energy needs of transportation and high energy industries would require significant energy storage.  If placed side by side, how would the costs of solar energy storage using molten salt compare to the total costs of (also molten salt) LFTR energy production and distribution?

 

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on October 21, 2013

I’m not saying that the under developed world needs to immediately go LFTR, just that it would be well worth the efforts for the world in general to do so despite re-developing time. Solar and wind can become a powerful “wedge” of decarbonization. However, politics as usual WILL PREVENT any meaningful contribution to such from solar, wind, and LFTR. Therefore, it is up to an informed populace to know and understand the basics of energy and what it takes to power planetary grids (and that solar lights really DO help off grid).

Edit:

Yes, LFTR would take some efforts, but not as much as the politicians effect in reducing the standards of living by preventing access to such. As vaige as that seems, the link is in lost jobs to China, restrictions on (mandatory and strategic) mining, in needless oil wars, in allowing the burial of clean tech and automation patents such as to thwart the entire American economy, and finally, how they, the politicians make a mockery out of our entire constitutional republic.

(What I am saying is that even though CSP and LFTR is “hard” to do, they both have been proven and they both are NOT being allowed… that simple)!

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on October 21, 2013

But the little amount of fossil fueled energy expended (and that may never get a positive EROEI) on the little solar light parts is FAR exceeded by the huge amounts of inefficient fossil fuels required… otherwise (see my new post above).

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