To effectively bring electricity to the people without it you must solve a technology/science problem, a cost problem, and capital problems. These solutions developed by Light the World will be free for use by other non-profits who wish to help change the world for the better. However these solutions will be made available to for-profit organizations for money, all of which will be put to use furthering the goals of Light the World.
New technology developments are now making it possible to change the basic economic equation of bringing power to the unlighted world. Solar, small wind and LED lighting provide foundation technologies that could change the economic equation entirely. From a deployment perspective however, these technologies are being developed for deployment in todays’ present grid. They are not optimized for low cost, simple deployment and maintainability in the developing world.
Modern technologies including our computers, mobile devices and highly efficient LED lighting all run on low voltage DC. We have adapters that convert our 120-240 volt AC power to the low-voltage DC that all of our new technologies require. PV Solar panels generate low-voltage DC power. To use them on our present grids, we add cost to change that power to AC.
By engineering a system that eliminates all of the cost of converting AC power into DC and DC into AC Light the World can dramatically reduce the costs all around.
Creating a deployable DC micro-grid solution requires several types of scientific development, engineering and testing. The systems are designed so that each component will work correctly when they are connected. It is also imperative to select/design components which will operate correctly in the environment where each unit is deployed. Components that work in sub-Sahara Africa may not work in a cooler climate.
In order to develop the required technologies “Light the World” employs several approaches.
One of the challenges of deploying traditional generation is the availability of fuel. If you build a coal-fired plant ($4 - $5 billion) you need a coal source as well as an infrastructure to bring the coal to the facility. Similarly, if you build a gas-fired plant ($60 - $250 million) you need a source of gas in addition to a pipeline. It is not uncommon for transmission lines to cost $1 million per mile. Fuel logistics add significant capital cost to traditional power generation solutions and further exacerbates the need for large amounts of capital to even start bringing electricity to the unlighted world.
“Light the World” anticipates that most of the people it serves will not have traditional fuel sources available to them. Therefore it is prudent to examine alternative sources of power generation.
By focusing on renewable “green” electrical generation which includes solar, small amount of wind and investigating the development of low cost biogas solutions from animal and farm waste, “Light the World” can provide lighting without significantly increasing an areas carbon footprint.
Traditionally in places without electricity, nighttime light is produced by burning animal waste or kerosene. Environmentally these are not good solutions. Every Light the World deployment that displaces the traditional methods of lighting will a have a positive impact on the environment.