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Vootie's picture
1598 pencils

Let There Be (Inexpensive, Solar) Light

You might think that creative communicators spanning the fields of the visual arts and design are busy these days just trying to keep their heads above water. And while staying financially afloat amongst current economic conditions is admittedly a challenge, there is no shortage of creatives' attention being devoted to helping solve the problems of those less fortunate. Sometimes this falls within a corporate framework, such as the Sappi Ideas That Matter program, which has to date funded more than 500 design-driven programs, adding up to $12 million in support of causes supporting the social good — that quaint concept that refuses to die.

But individuals from the visual arts and design communities are also launching their own initiatives. One of the most striking of these is Little Sun, a joint project by artist Olafur Eliasson and engineer Frederik Ottesen. Eliasson is a Danish-Icelandic artist known for his sculptures and large-scale installation art employing elemental materials such as light, water and air temperature. Struck by the fact that 1.6 billion people have no access to the electrical grid, in conjunction with his engineer partner he developed a solar powered light that's broadly useful and inexpensive to produce. The idea was to replace the expensive, unhealthy kerosene lamps that are still widespread. Little Sun is said to save 90% over three years, compared to kerosene, and delivers an evening of light after just five hours of charging.

The partners apparently based the business model of the enterprise on Nobel Peace Prize laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus’ Seven Principles of Social Business. This provided a framework that took the lights from the "nice idea" stage to actually getting them in the hands of the people that would most benefit from them. To that end the initiative supplies off-grid businesses with Little Sun lamps at a reduced rate and provide retailers with the support they need to make a profit.

How can you help? Simply purchasing one of the lights from the Little Sun site helps keep the price of the lamps low in off-grid areas. Oh, and that Little Sun logo? It was designed and contributed to the project by powerhouse brand consultants Wolff Olins.

Commenting on this Blog entry will be automatically closed on March 22, 2013.

peter eller's picture
2 pencils

"Little Sun" is a terribly weak idea , a much better solution is the gravity light. It is many orders of magnitude better solves all the same problems but much more sustainably. no solar cell no battery just a dynamo and a light. check it out here

and they raised 400k through a crowd funding campaign on

Vootie's picture
1598 pencils

I think the people whose lives have already been greatly improved by the Little Sun would disagree with you. There is room for many solutions to such fundamental problems and the gravity light also looks promising. Please try to be more supportive of parallel approaches to solving such important global issues -- there is no one "right" approach.

Art D. Rector's picture
3162 pencils

I think both are good ideas - so thanks for the info, guys - I'm always interested in new ways forward. I would say however they should not have wasted their efforts on making the light look like the sun. The light - according to the video - lasts only 3 years. So unless there is some way to swap out the battery (or the solar panel - whichever fails after 3 years) - there are going to be a lot of little plastic suns in the trash. They also will require the oil necessary to produce the plastic - so it's a little counter productive in that respect. But I do think it's a good idea that has a place in the scheme of things at least for now.

Here's something else along those lines you might find interesting...

Vootie's picture
1598 pencils

Yes, the battery can simply be replaced after three years, the unit is supposed to last a long time. I asked the Little Sun people about the plastic casing and was told it was designed to be shock, dust and UV resistant -- perhaps there is no inexpensive alternative to plastic? Thanks for the interesting link.

wgzn's picture
2120 pencils

i dont get it. other than simply being shaped like a flower, what's this guy's light do that any other solar or even hand cranked light doesn't?

Vootie's picture
1598 pencils

It's worth visiting the site for details. Beyond creating an inexpensive solar-powered light, he's put in place a system that will allow these to be sold by local merchants, thus ensuring the lights actually get into people's hands. Distribution is often the missing piece of the puzzle to meet such basic needs. Its this model, beyond just the light itself, that has generated such interest in the project.

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