Lighting Up Mexico’s Sierra Madre
and other places
Like many parts of the world that do not have access to electricity, it is considered economically unfeasible and ecologically unsound to construct a centralized electrical grid in the Sierra Madre
The Portable Light Project is an initiative that mixes technology with the traditional cultural values of nomadic communities, to provide renewable and portable power to areas without centralized electricity supplies.
The project brings advanced photovoltaic (PV) technologies to indigenous communities in the developing world, supplying them sufficient amounts of light without the reliance of attaching to power lines or grid.
The idea combines lightweight solar or PV cells — which take in energy from the sun — with light-emitting diodes that are then attached to the surface of a fabric.
Flexible solar panels can be integrated into ‘everyday products’ like bags or blankets carried around or worn in daylight hours minimizing the materials needed to create a portable power generator. The electricity is stored in the integrated battery which drives two high brightness LEDs giving people in remote areas reading and working light after sunset or allow them to charge other essential electronic devices.
A brilliant idea that could indeed bring the other 90% of the world population delight into their homes.
The units can produce up to eight hours of light from a three-hour solar charge.
A single portable light unit can also provide enough power to charge a cell phone and provide bright, white light to support community-based education and household economic development.
“The Portable Light Project demonstrates how nanotechnology can benefit not only the “third” world — where more than 2 billion people currently do not have access to electricity — but also the “first” world, where energy-efficient design is increasingly important,” said Sheila Kennedy, an architect from Kennedy & Violich Architecture (KVA) which is leading the Portable Light team.
Collecting light for the evening with you shopping bag…
Additionally, according to Kennedy, the units can be mass-produced economically. One of the first deployments of the lights was to serve the needs of the indigenous Huichol (Wirrárica) people who live in remote areas of the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains of Mexico.
UNESCO and the WWF have designated the Sierra Madre as a “priority area for conservation” and it is important to examine new approaches to renewable energy for these environmentally sensitive territories.
The Portable Light team in conjunction with RMI plans to continue developing the technology to expand its benefits to other indigenous communities. It is in use already in Amazonia, Nicaragua and other places.
More than 2 billion people live without electricity, most in extreme poverty. The Portable Light Project creates new ways to provide renewable power in solar textiles that can be adapted to meet the needs of people in different cultures and global regions. Portable Light textiles with flexible solar materials and solid state lighting enable the world’s poorest people to create and own energy harvesting bags, blankets, and clothing using local materials and traditional weaving and sewing techniques in an open source model.
For more information on the Portable Light Project, please see http://portablelight.org/