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Affordable solar panels bring light to the poor

Kenyans can buy the kit with $12 down payment

Affordable solar panels bring light to the poor

Picture: Isaiah Esipisu

At Sibanga market, 10 kilometers (6 miles) outside the town of Kitale in western Kenya, Timothy Nyongesa walks into the Mibawa Suppliers shop to collect a gadget that he hopes will brighten his children’s studies and his family’s health.

In exchange for an initial payment of 1,000 Kenyan shillings (about $12), Mr. Nyongesa walks out with a kit that will generate solar energy at his home. He jumps on his bicycle and snakes along a footpath to his village of Sinyerere, 6 kilometers farther into the countryside.

Nyongesa’s family is one of more than 3,000 in the Kitale area who since 2011 have switched to solar power instead of using kerosene lamps to light their homes.

“I cannot have my children study using a kerosene tin-lamp when those in the neighborhood are using electricity from the sun,” he says.

The solar kits, which aim to scale up access to solar power for Kenya’s poor, are marketed using an installment plan that puts the 10,000-shilling (about $120) pack within reach of people with modest incomes. After an initial deposit of 1,000 shillings, the user makes weekly payments of 120 shillings ($1.40) for 80 weeks before fully owning the system.

Scratch cards with codes enable purchasers to make their payments securely from home via SMS – using their mobile phone, which also can be kept charged with the solar kit.

The innovative effort, by Azuri Technologies, a British-based company that developed and manufactures the IndiGo solar kits, was recently named a winner of the 2013 Ashden Awards, considered the world’s leading green energy prize.

Full Story: Solar kits bring clean light to Kenya's poor

Source: Christian Science Monitor

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