Guatemala, Technology

Seeing the Light

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In this week’s news roundup, Jazmine mentioned solar energy start-up Quetsol’s Indiegogo campaign to raise $50,000 to bring pay-as-you-go solar kits to Guatemala’s rural poor. I’d like to use my post this week to explore this story. Quetsol was launched in 2010 by Guatemalan co-founders, Juan Fermin Rodriguez and Manuel Antonio Aguilar, in an attempt to do something about the 2.6 million people in Guatemala who do not have access to electricity – most of whom are subsistence farmers and their families. In these homes, as in homes all over the world where rural poor lack electricity, people must rely on candles and kerosene lamps once the sun goes down. This is not only dangerous – open flames present obvious risks and studies have shown that kerosene lamps emit black carbon, which presents health and environmental concerns – but these dim light sources are not the most cost effective.

Quetsol is one of a growing group of organizations aimed at bringing clean energy sources to the developing world in a way that is safe, affordable and sustainable. A team in London recently received a lot of attention for its Gravity Light – an LED light powered by the weight of sand, gravel or earth –which they initially developed for use in rural Africa. The organization Lights for Life, has the mission of providing school-aged children in Rwanda and Kenya living without electricity rechargeable lights with which to do homework and study. From Lighting Africa, which serves sub-Saharan Africa, to The Lumina Project, which supports projects all over the developing world, organizations exist worldwide to bring cleaner light and energy sources to people in need.

Quetsol has already distributed its solar power kit to thousands of people in Guatemala who use microloans from banks to finance them. Currently the company is finding this model prohibitive and is soliciting contributions through Indiegogo to launch a new pay-as-you-go solar power kit, which would make the kits more accessible to more people. In an interesting twist, Quetsol CEO Juan Rodriguez has pledged to stay literally in the dark, turning his own lights off until their funding goal is met and Guatemalans who want access to electricity are able to get it. You can a watch a live feed of him in the darkness here.

I find the commitment and heart of Quetsol’s team inspiring, and I look forward to seeing them meet their funding goal and continuing to bring sustainable energy to Guatemala.

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