Mashable: US & World
June 6, 2012
Name: Portable Light Project (Click to view video)
Big Idea: The Portable Light Project enables people in the developing world to create and own energy harvesting textiles, accelerating the global clean energy movement.
Why It’s Working: The Portable Light Project team has developed an inexpensive solar textile kit to provide renewable power that can be adapted to meet the needs of people around the world.
Approximately 1.5 billion people in the world live without electricity, and even more lack access to it on a regular basis. That’s 25% of the global population and 79% of the developing world. The Portable Light Project, an ongoing non-profit initiative, addresses this problem by working to bring efficient and economical power to the darkest areas of the globe.
The concept behind the Portable Light Project is pretty simple: Typical glass solar panels are too large and fragile to ship overseas where needed, so the Portable Light Project includes all materials in a kit that costs less than $16, complete with a flexible reflective panel, an electric circuit made from a rechargeable battery, a USB port and a high-brightness LED. The bright digital light gives off 80 lumens per watt, which is bright enough for people to read, work or see in the dark at night.
“Some of the most unexpected challenges stem from older ‘modern’ ideas of technology as a fixed and uniform thing that is the same no matter what the country, culture of use or context,” Kennedy explains. “With Portable Light, we are interested in challenging these assumptions about what technology can be, the materials of which it’s made and how it’s designed.”
The kit is an open-source model, allowing the users to adapt each kit to their needs in their specific locations. Based on research in design and engineering, the kits can be built in different forms such as blankets, bags and clothing. The form depends on the level of light the community needs and what resources are already available.
The Portable Light Project has a dual impact: It provides much needed energy to people in developing nations and also advances the worldwide movement toward cleaner, more efficient energy. And the company is expanding into greater energy and communications initiatives in South America.