The Solar Lantern Project

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The Solar Lantern Project

Nicaragua
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

"The development of a low-cost solar lighting solution to disadvantaged households in rural Nicaragua through a responsible and sustainable approach"

About You
Location
Project Street Address
Project City
Project Province/State
Project Postal/Zip Code
Project Country
Your idea
Field of Work

environment

If Field of Work is “other” please define in 1-2 words below

Renewable Energies

Year project started (or projected start date) (yyyy)

2006

Project URL (or link to any media coverage)
What is the primary problem your venture is trying to address and how are you addressing it (or planning to address it)?

We challenge a contribution to eradicate poverty and create a better sustainable development through friendly and non pollutant solutions by replacing dangerous and toxic kerosene lanterns with our proprietary solar lamp using sustainable and subsidized commercial means. By replacing costly oil-gas lanterns we are improving health and education in the developing world through the use of combination solar-LED solutions.
Assembling our own solar lamp with the collaboration of a local partner is the most cost-effective, sustainable way to give people access to light – thanks to the business model simplicity, and lamp serviceability and portability. Low-cost systems which would be affordable to the lower 50% of the population still do not exist in Nicaragua due to import restrictions on consumer goods. We have found out how to avoid these restrictions by importing the lamp sub-assemblies and assembling them in Nicaragua, which allows us to offer the lamp at the lowest price per light output over all other LED-lamps being offered around the world. The idea of this organization is benefiting more communities through a revolving fund.

Innovation
Project Description

"The development of a low-cost solar lighting solution to disadvantaged households in rural Nicaragua through a responsible and sustainable approach"

Unique and different

Our solar lanterns go beyond meeting a need for lighting and will enable people to read, study, work and do house-labor taks while saving costs on the use of kerosene and providing better health, environmental and education conditions.

Bright New Ideas is a grass root non-profit organization, that partnership with students from University of Minnesota and National University of Engineering in Nicaragua which continue to work to improve the solar lamp design. The intercultural and technological knowledge exchange (members/beneficiaries) and social awareness makes our organization unique and different.

Project plan

In March 2008 we launched our Tega-Lamp project, in which we will sell 100 subsidized lamps by November 2008 in partnership with AVODEC a local NGO with a proven record of lasting change. Afterwards, our plan for 2012 is 10,000 units which can be stored at our partner organization´s office which is well-secure and centralized in the city of Jinotega, Nicaragua. Counts will be made by AVODEC and our support team on a monthly basis and compared with order receipts.

Partnerships

We are working partnering with AVODEC (a local cooperative in the countryside) to better achieve consumer behavior in terms of financing or method of payments, feedback of the products and good managing. AVODEC has been the first contact in Jinotega since they work closely in other projects with some Minnesotan organizations.

Grupo Fenix at National University of Engineering in Managua is a leader group of volunteer students interested in promoting renewable energies.

Impact
Impact

– Like turning on a light switch – in the lives of people in Nicaragua, many farmers, kids, young and women in the villagers were impressed to see the change that a solar lantern does. It is very useful actually, to do some home task work in kitchen, have a walk around and even for kids when they study at the night time. The change in their lives in terms of a social and economical impact is a reality after testing one of the lamps, a family saved around U$85.00 per year avoiding the use of kerosene in the old traditional oil-lamps.

Effectiveness

So far more than 90 families (630 persons) have benefit of the solar lantern until Ocotober 2008. Most of them are farmers, kids, young and women in rural villages.

How do you engage and impact the community?

During 2006 we have started to work closely with the community leaders and our partners. We currently have an office and place to stock our materials at AVODEC's office, which is one of our main partners in Nicaragua. Communities leaders and members recognize the social, economical and environmental impact that Bright New Ideas offer them. In 2008, we started to give training to those community members who have some electronic or technical skill to understand the assembling of a solar lantern. We launched this project on a long term plan, which will benefit more people while this is running.

How do you measure this impact?

Cost avoided in the use of kerosene could be measured in terms of numbers (85 U$ per year per family) but this project goes beyond that, since we also focus on promoting education, health and environmental care. It benefits people of different ages (kids, youngs, adults, etc) and social status. Our product is even useful for urban areas as an emergency lamp in case of blackouts.

Obstacles

One of the main obstacles is the initial investment for this project, since most of the rural villagers demand this product and we still are working on the best suitable micro-credit plan easy for them to get the products. This project is more than volunteering and we also aim to offer employment to local people who can help us to coordinate operations in town. The project is being developed by volunteer members from USA and Nicaragua who donate their time and skills to make this project be successful.

Sustainability
Financing source
(or how do you expect your initiative will be financed)

Bright New Ideas has set a challenge to raise $5000 by November 2008 to purchase materials, ship, and collect feedback data for the 100 families participating in the Tega-Lamp project, In addition to receive grants from foundations and other partner organizations. This project will pave the way for a leap to 10,000 lamps on an extremely cost-effective level in 2012. A list of parts and materials has been established in order to get them in the local market of Nicaragua and in a cost-effective way. Our project leaders have been training local technician in the communities which will be of great help in the assembly process. Capacity-building and human resources process will make our time-table to be achieved in the right time.

Aside from financial sustainability, how do you plan to grow and sustain your project?

Still, our project is commercial: by charging a small fee for each lamp we can ensure both sustainability for our work and responsibility from our populations. Our work is focused on making improvements that are quality and lasting. Overall, the key strategy to beat out competitors is to provide a low cost quality lamp with useful light and full customer support system including repairs and returns. Low cost will make the light accessible to greater numbers of people than current solutions, and customer support will increase brand loyalty in a market which in the future will likely be filled with cheap non-functioning LED products.

Finance details

We are currently managing from 1,000 - 5,000 US dollars in our budget, our funds are coming from donations, student awards, grants and help from other partners. We plan to start in 2009 with more lantern distribution and hopefully offer emploment position to local villagers.
We are 4 members in the organization including the president in addition to advisors and students from Minnesota and Nicaragua. Our main partner is AVODEC in Jinotega.

Creative funding

We also should mention that a good part of our funding has been raised through the participation and winning on Engineering Awards and Universities where we have received grants / pocket money recognition to our work, which has been put in the organization account.

Other non finance needs

Mentoring and training in financing or approaches to mobilize resource in rural areas.

Networking with partners, investors and other volunteers who wan to join thie innitiative.

The Story
Motivation

It all started as an initiative in 2006 with two international teams of students from University of Minnesota and National University of Engineering in Nicaragua. The intercultural exchange and dialogue enable us to have a good organizational scheme for setting up virtual team’s conference every Thursday in week. Each representative of the team was responsible of keep tracking the progress against targets and take actions on slippages, indeed of writing a summary report of all the activities and plans for the near future.
In 2007, the idea of bringing solar energy products with lighting purpose to rural Nicaragua was made through a non-profit organization registration under the name of Bright New Ideas (BNI). Since that, I am able to encourage other with our vision statement in the project. We all are aware that our vision and persistence are keen for the success of this initiative.

Help others through the use of appropiate technology and create a social impact in our community was my personal motivation to join and start this project.

Awards

o La Salle High School Board of Honor Student Recognition and Academic Perseverance. 2001

o Finalist Project Recognition for Mondialogo (Worldwide Engineering Award) Germany 2005.

o Youth Fellow delegate from Nicaragua. ITU World TELECOM ASIA. Hong Kong, China 2006.

o ERA 2007, Award for the use and promotion of Renewable Energies in Nicaragua. Honored by the European Commission (Eurocentro) and INDE, Managua 2007.

o Young Social Entrepreneur. Winner as project finalist to pitch for funding at the 3rd. Global Knowledge conference. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 2007.

o Board of director and member of IEEE (The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers) since 2004 until dates. IEEE Nicaragua Section

o Member of Rotaract Club

o Member of (YSEI) Young Social Enterprise Initiative 2007-2008

o Team member and volunteer of the Alliance for Minority Educational Achievement, Inc. 2008.

o Finalist in Young American Business Trust, TIC Americas. Medellín, Colombia 2008.

o Youth Alumni and Fellow advisor. ITU TELECOM AFRICA. El Cairo, Egypt 2008.

Broader context

We are creating a social impact by benefiting underserved people in Nicaragua and we also promote intercultural exchange and dialogue with youth and students. Volunteering is one of the best ways to learn and put hands on a project. We promote social and rural development while make use of appropiate technology.

Ongoing

It will continue creating more impacts, our objectives are giving solution to rural areas in Nicaragua and another parts of the world that lacks of lighting systems.

What is your age?

23

How did you hear about this competition?

From Dana Frasz, a Youth ActionNet fellow.