d.light's Kerosene Alternative

Last week we reported on a photovoltaic powered car, today we feature a company that is manufacturing photovoltaic powered lighting. Founded not quite two years ago by Sam Goldman, d.light Designs intends to sell affordable, clean lighting to households that currently rely on kerosene for illumination.

Better light equals better health and
better education. Initially, d.light
will distribute their lights in India

Currently d.light is doing trials with two different versions of rechargeable solar lanterns. They will provide a 180 degree hemisphere of ultra-efficient LED illumination, which will allow these lights to be mounted on walls and ceilings to replace kerosene lamps.

When I talked with Goldman earlier today, he said d.light intends to sell solar panels as separate modules – giving the consumer the option to recharge these lights using solar power.

It isn’t easy to project what these lights will actually cost the consumer. In India, for example, which is the first market d.light is targeting, there are import taxes that will significantly affect the end-user price. More relevant in many respects is what the payback time would be for consumers of these lamps who no longer had to buy kerosene.

Again using India as an example, not only are the end-user prices for d.light’s products not yet settled, but the price of kerosene varies widely between India’s subsidized official price and the prices charged on the wide open, more informal markets. But Goldman estimated the average rural family in India would be able to recoup the costs of a solar powered lighting system within 6 to 24 months. Considering these systems are designed to last at least five years (the solar module will last far longer than that; the inexpensive battery will require replacement every two years or so), this is a good deal.

Financial payback isn’t the only reason families who currently use kerosene for illumination may want these lights, however. The indoor air pollution caused by kerosene lighting is responsible for lower respiratory infections, a major killer of children under five in India and elsewhere. Chronic lung disease afflicts everyone subjected to years of unhealthy indoor air. Kerosene is also dangerous, causing thousands of fires and injuries each year.

Sam Goldman is an interesting entrepreneur, having spent much of his life in Africa and Asia. His online blog “let there be d.light! ” can provide a great deal of insight (and inspiration) to other social entrepreneurs, as well as potential business partners who may wish to find out more information than is available on d.light’s corporate website. Goldman’s company is funded by an assortment of equity investors, including Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Garage Technology Ventures, Mahindra & Mahindra and Nexus India Capital.

One of d.light’s major priorities currently is establishing a distributor network in India. As Goldman stated, “we’re looking right now to sign more distribution partners – anyone who is interested in partnering to help create solutions and distribute products should contact us.”

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