Simply speaking, the SOLARKIOSK is a highly optimized kiosk with solar panels on top. Once installed, it becomes a compact, affordable and sturdy shop offering energy, products, tools and services.
The SOLARKIOSK is designed for “off-grid areas” – those parts of developing countries which are not connected to an electricity grid. An estimated 1.5 billion people world-wide live in such areas, 800 million alone in Africa. This is a huge untapped market, which the SOLARKIOSK will be the first to enter.
Imagine a village in which every single cottage is pitch black at night, unless people resort to things like kerosene lamps. Not only is kerosene expensive, but this means that in order to read at night, people there have to breathe in hazardous fumes. To charge their mobile phones, people sometimes have to travel for days.
Every SOLARKIOSK will provide enough power for solar lighting, mobile phone and car battery charging, a computer and even a solar fridge. Depending on local conditions, internet, TV and music can be offered as well. Since the SOLARKIOSK will most likely house the only fridge in the area, it can cool drinks and medication. In addition to those energy services, customers can buy solar lanterns, mobile phones, top-up cards for them and any other product that one typically finds in such kiosks.
As the new business hub in the village, the SOLARKIOSK provides qualified jobs to local people. The typical SOLARKIOSK operator will come from the local community, trained and certified by special programs at a nearby high school, university or NGO facility. These programs teach operators how solar products work, how to maintain them and how to run a sustainable business as a shop owner. Every operator will then typically employ several other people in order to provide the kiosk's services efficiently.
Every night, large parts of Africa, Asia and South America are completely dark. Near the equator, every night lasts 12 hours all year round (6pm to 6am). The SOLARKIOSK will enable people to read, study, or simply interact during those hours – instead of just waiting for the sun to rise again.
The SOLARKIOSK will thus not only bring economic growth to less developed parts of the world. It will also stimulate communities and enable people to educate themselves at night. Where there is light, there is communication.
Another huge problem in Africa is deforestation as people depend on wood and other biomass for cooking and heat. As the human population increases, demand for wood outstrips the forest’s ability to replenish itself. This not only reduces biodiversity but also causes extreme soil erosion, which in turn endangers agriculture.
Solar energy can liberate people from this dependency and helps protect existing woodland.
There are several reasons why the SOLARKIOSK is the right idea at the right time.
1. Off-grid households waste a lot of money, often up to 40% of their entire income, on electricity substitutes. On average, such a household will spend $120 annually on candles, paraffin, kerosene and the like just to have light at night. World-wide, that adds up to $30 billion a year. In comparison, the entire grid-connected world spends only an estimated $20 billion on lighting annually.
2. Solar technology is at a historical inflection point: the prices of solar products are dropping at an astounding rate, while demand for electricity in developing countries is rising fast. In the past, solar technology was unable to compete with kerosene lamps and diesel generators – even though these are typically polluting, toxic, hazardous and expensive. Now, being a lot cheaper and easy to use, solar technology has become the better alternative, even for the underprivileged and poor.
The SOLARKIOSK enables each household to save $10 per month just by providing solar energy. The average kiosk will supply between 200 and 5,000 households, thereby increasing income, stimulating local development, reducing poverty and increasing security in local communities.
3. Even in areas without electricity, mobile phones are everywhere. Mobile telecom is the fastest growing market in 21st century Africa, but charging a cell phone often takes a journey of two days to and back from the next city and can cost as much as $0,50 per charge. The SOLARKIOSK enables people to charge their phones where they live, saving time and money.
Photo credits: Pictures on the introductory page are based on an original © Dr. Jay D. Breitlow DC for Journey to Solidarity. Used with kind permission.