The International Solar Energy Society (ISES) estimates that there are two billion people on Earth without access to electricity. These people live in developing countries, which are areas with the greatest potential for energy growth. In fact, the ISES estimates that 60% of the world’s energy growth will take place in these countries in the next few decades. It has long been thought that this would come in the form of non-renewable energy sources like coal and oil, but it’s been increasingly apparent that renewable energy will play a vital role in this growth.
With high ease of setup and transportation, solar energy-gathering devices will be an effective way to help developing countries meet energy demands. One Australian energy start-up, Pollinate Energy, provides solar-powered lamps to those in India without access to electric lamps. The goal is to replace kerosene lamps, which can cause respiratory problems and fires. Pollinate Energy has already provided lamps for over 50,000 people in the slums of India.
Another solar innovation is the Eliodeomestico Solar Still, developed by Gabriele Diamanti. This is a solar-powered water distillation system made from terracotta and can provide up to five liters of water per day, even if the water is sourced from seawater. Because access to water is often not guaranteed in developing nations, this product can immensely help families.
In addition to providing lamplight and distillation, solar-powered products can bring watt energy. The solar leaf, developed by researchers at MIT, can provide about 100 watts of energy for the entire day. Though solar leaves don’t pack as much energy as a solar panel, they are easy to set up. All that is needed is a source of water and a container, so the leaf can produce energy by separating the hydrogen and oxygen molecules of the water.
The visible light spectrum is often gathered and converted into energy, but another group at MIT have developed a technology which can harvest the non-visible light, or infrared light. This can greatly increase energy potential of established solar panel systems. Though this technology is not yet offered on the market, the applications for developing countries is great.
Solar energy innovations take advantage of the sun’s energy, but kinetic energy innovations have potential as well. One company, Uncharted Play, has developed the SOCCKET, a soccer ball toy, and the PULSE, a jump rope toy. These toys store the kinetic energy produced by movement and can store enough power to keep an LED light shining for hours with just a few minutes of play.