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Let There Be Light -- the Solar Way

September 2008
Let There Be Light -- the Solar Way

A solar lamp named Aishwarya? Sounds like a publicity stunt cooked up in Mumbai’s dream factory. But it’s not, even though the Bachchan family did kick off their ballyhooed Bollywood tour (“Unforgettable”) by declaring that they want to promote solar energy and conservation. The Aishwarya Lamp, partly inspired by the actress, is an award-winning solar alternative to the traditional kerosene and paraffin lanterns used in India. It runs on batteries, providing three hours of light a day, and has a solar panel that lasts 10 years. NEST (Nobal Energy Solar Technologies), which produced it, is one of many Indian companies that have of late jumped on the solar energy bandwagon.

If India’s fledgling conservation movement has its way, smoky lanterns will become as outdated as smoky steam engines. The Indian government, too, is hoping to promote wider use of solar lamps by distributing them to the so-called BPL (Below Poverty Line) households. Already, the government estimates, 385,000 solar lamps are in use. Not only do they reduce pollution and fuel consumption, but the cost of ownership is also less in the long run. Rajendra Pachauri, head of the U.N. panel that won a Nobel Peace Prize, has noted that 1.6 million people worldwide don’t have access to electricity. He’s an enthusiastic supporter of the “lighting a billion lives” campaign led by India’s Energy Resources Institute. Dharmappa Barki snagged the Ashden Prize for the Aishwarya Lamp, while Patrick Walsh won the Inventiveness and Innovation Prize this year for his battery-powered, solar-charged LED lamp. Each award is worth $30,000.

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