“Turning on the light” without electrical energy
Light is essential for social and human development, but electrical power grid energy remains a scarce commodity in many regions of the world. However, a technological leap helps to overcome this obstacle.
Lighting has been synonymous of safety and comfort since immemorial time – whether through fire as a guarantor of nighttime safety in the early days of mankind, or with Thomas Edison’s mastery of electricity and the patent for the incandescent light bulb, some 1.7 million years later.
This last invention, complemented by the development of the electrical grid, revolutionized the way mankind deals with darkness and night. Although other forms of lighting already existed, such as candles, oil lamps and gas-powered street lighting, it was with the electrical grid that the explosion in the development of public and private lighting took place.
One would hope, then, that in the 21st century all mankind would have access to something that today we consider so simple: “turning on the light. However, great asymmetries still exist. There are still great imbalances in development between the various regions of the globe, whether in terms of access of drinkable water, food, and all kinds of infrastructure, including electrical grid.
When it is not possible to “turn on the light”
The electrical power grid, so common in developed areas of the globe, is still absent in less favored countries and areas. And with it, all the benefits of public lighting and the security it brings. As can be seen in a photograph provided by NASA’s Earth Observatory, the asymmetries of nighttime illumination on the planet are quite evident.
The great challenge for underdeveloped regions is the lack of basic infrastructure to support their development. However, there have been some cases in which technology has allowed them to “leapfroging“, and thus eliminate the need of a traditional infrastructure.
One example of this is telecommunications in Africa. Unlike Europe, which has a landline telecommunications network, using underground cabling and ducts, in Africa such infrastructure is very scarce and weak; however, the development of mobile communications has provided the population with ubiquitous access to voice and Internet connectivity.
In the case of electrical energy and lighting, it is unfortunately not possible to have a wireless network, without physical infrastructure, but there are other possibilities, such as the use of solar energy.
GEMINI: street lighting for all, without power grid
Today, with the use of LED technology – which is extremely energy efficient – photovoltaic panels and modern batteries, it is possible to create autonomous lighting solutions without having power lines. And it was with this goal that ARQUILED developed GEMINI – a range of smart, sustainable and fully autonomous solar lighting luminaires.
These kinds of solutions have a strong social impact. They are designed to be very affordable and easy to assemble, without the need for skilled labor, and most importantly, all they need to work is that we install them under the sun. In this way we can bring light to zones of the globe where it is currently not possible.
And if in the western world its omnipresence can make us forget the fundamental role of light in our lives, it seems to me that the following image illustrates well its importance for personal, social and economical development. It was published by the Marron Institute for Urban Development at New York University (NYU) and shows several students studying at night under the street lighting. Since they have no electricity at home, they go to the airport, where the streets are lit, to carry out their studies.
Light represents security, but also progress and development. By enabling access to solar lighting, distributing it to towns, villages, and other areas where the electrical grid is scarce or simply absent, we promote equal access to an essential asset: lighting. Therefore, in ARQUILED we say that GEMINI is more than a luminaire: it is a fortunate encounter between a social need and a technological innovation.
Miguel Allen Lima