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The Portable Light Project combines textiles and solar panels to bring renewable light and power to folks in remote locations, the developing world, and even more industrialized places. Basically, small and very flexible solar panels can be sewn onto clothing or other easily stored textiles. This non-profit research group is bringing the panels to different locations to see what people can do with them. They've also worked up a deal with Timbuk2 to produce panels for messenger bags with a light and a usb hookup for recharging. The only problem I can see is that I cannot order one for myself at this time. You have to order in groups of 200.

The bags were developed to be:

1. Flexible
2. Portable
3. Clean source of renewable energy with a low carbon footprint

So far there has been limited testing on a Navajo Reservation in Arizona, Ghana, Kenya, Haiti, and Mozambique. And this brings me back to the textiles stuff - in places like Ghana and Kenya people got the bags, took them apart, and used the panels in completely new ways.

In Kenya, a Boda Boda transporter (cycles people, goods and messages at border crossings) can charge his phone, have a light source at home that is always charged, and offer to charge electronic gadgets for customers for a small fee. Given that this was sewn onto a standard safari vest, the possible uses by others like fishers, farmers, market sellers, tourists, protected area guards, etc. are endless. AfriGadget was the place that I learned about the FLAP project first. I have been looking into solar power options for the field for computer use. Netbooks don't use as much energy as laptops, and since I work outside all day when I am in the field it would be a perfect solar panel.

From AfriGadget

Pop! Tech has more information about the FLAP bag collaborative project. They are also looking for partners to field test the bag in more places. Since I will be in Tanzania or Ghana (or both) this summer doing participatory field research, I am seriously considering contacting these folks. Having a clean, renewable energy source to recharge batteries for tools the community will be using to do environmental monitoring would be awesome! And it wouldn't hurt that they could recharge their cell phones and have a light too.

Views: 20

Comment by Michael on March 18, 2010 at 2:46am
Thanks for the comment and you blog. You might want to check out Emersa the company I mentioned in my blog. Here is a link to a presentation of theirs showing all of the products they produce.

Comment by Nick Heyming on March 19, 2010 at 6:01pm
I'm glad more and more companies are producing products like this. Its high time they stopped being just for rich "Sharper Image" types and made available to people around the world...


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