Want to enter solar off-grid business? Build your own solar LED lanterns and emergency lights!
I’ve been looking at the search results on my blog. It doesn’t surprise me that solar is a top search topic with searches such as ‘emerging opportunity in solar cell manufacturing’ ranking very high.
Some other interesting solar-related searches — ‘list of new solar manufacturing companies’, ‘vertically integrated solar/PV companies’, ‘making home solar power in India’, ‘FDI in India for solar projects’, ‘solar PV production in India’, ‘solar products manufacturing opportunities’, ‘solar cells manufacturers’, ‘India solar opportunities’, ‘top rated solar products’, etc.
Wow, I am overwhelmed! Friends, I have touched on each one of these aspects over the past year and will continue to do so in future.
There has been a lot of interest in off-grid solar applications in India and elsewhere for quite a while now. I’ve been discussing how one can easily enter the solar business with my associate Usha. Friends such as Ravi and Shilpa have got into discussions with me regarding the solar business in India as well. There have been a few requests on LinkedIn too, to comment on NSM and also, how to get into the solar LED lantern business.
That’s very interesting and heartening to learn that folks are getting serious about solar and LEDs. Many thanks to those who think I am capable enough to write about such topics. It is very humbling!
Now, if you search the Internet, you can find sites that offer tips on how to build you own DIY solar LED lantern — which, I consider a very easy way to enter the off-grid market in India.
Build your own solar LED lantern
Let me attempt this with the solar LED lanterns. First: how do you enter the off-grid solar applications business in India or anywhere? There are three ways of doing so.
One, either you build/manufacture a product yourself. Two, become a franchisee for some local manufacturer. Three, simply import products from manufacturers in China, Taiwan or anywhere else, and sell it in India, or wherever you are!
What would you actually need to build a solar LED lantern or even solar emergency lights?
* Solar cell/panel of say, 2W
* Two or four LEDs — you can go for high-brightness LEDs too!
* Small transparent plastic containers, preferably with holders to hang, if needed.
* Terminal block
* Wires, toggle/selector switch and other basic circuitry to connect to the LED
* 2A or 3A batteries
If you want to build a rechargeable unit, add a NiCd/NiMH rechargeable battery and connect it to the solar cell/panel.
Now, am sure you can assemble this! If not, find some electrical engineering student to do it for you. Or, some electrical mechanic! Or, search the Internet for sites who tell you how to do this, if you want to save on the assembly cost too!
Where can you source these materials? From electrical suppliers or components distributors! Or, from the open market itself.
What will be the development cost for building a basic solar LED lantern? I reckon, not even Rs. 200 (US $5), or even less!
Where can you sell these? Anywhere! Hope you have seen the Hindi movie — Mumbai Se Aaya Mera Dost, starring Abhishek Bachchan, where he brings a TV to his village and how it changes the village’s lifestyle. Or, I hope you’ve seen the Hindi movie, Swades, starring Shah Rukh Khan, where he literally ‘brings’ electricity to a remote Indian village!
Try visiting your own village (if you belong to one), or your home town. Am sure there are power cuts galore, if you happen to live in India. Just go there and ask around if the people would be willing to try out your product. Once they can see it in use and understand its benefit, who knows, you could be in for major success. Most importantly, think, how you can help improve the quality of life of the rural folks!
Oh, think about our farmers too. If you can develop good quality solar irrigation pumps, that would be great! It won’t be a bad idea either to visit the Auroville and The Matri Mandir in Pondicherry. They use solar cookers!
If making this solar LED lantern looks easy, then try and building your solar decorative lights, solar lamps, solar camping lanterns, solar flashlights, solar emergency lights, etc. The choice is yours! Share your success stories with me! ;)
Maybe, there are too many makers in this field, some would say. I feel, the only differentiator would be in the quality of the LEDs used and how long your product would operate in a day — if 10-12 hours or more, brilliant!
The National Solar Mission (NSM) has ambitious plans. Maybe, here’s a way of participating and contributing to its success.
Finally, I am a layman, who doesn’t understand engineering. What I’ve said here is in simple, layman’s language. Am sure there are many knowledgeable folks out there, who can share their experiences.
Updated: Jan 7th, 2009: I have to add some more information. First, I am simply overwhelmed at the response this post has received so far. Many, many thanks to all of you who have shared your valuable experiences.
Further, this simple business model can be used by practically anyone — whether the person is based in either rural Africa or even Latin America. I wish to thank a LinkedIn networker, Steaphany Waelder, for pointing this out. I will also post Steaphany’s comment here for everyone to see and benefit.
My idea was to provide the simplest of business models for folks who could be interested in such a business. Of course, everyone is free to innovate, and spend of features, etc., as they go along. Best of luck!