Niwa – Next Energy Products Releases Family of Modular Solar Systems

Niwa Solar has released a new line of modular systems, which includes the Office 200 X2, the Home Run 400 X3, and 15 additional systems made up of components in the MSS – Modular Solar Systems product family.  The modular design of these systems allows customers to upgrade to add new lights, batteries and solar modules as desired over time.

Office 200 X2

Office 200 X2

The Office 200 X2system is designed to provide bright light and mobile phone charging for an office or small commercial business. Four 50 lumen light points are included in the system. After a single day of solar charging, all of the lights can be run on the highest setting for over 4 hours. Each set of two lights can be dimmed or turned off separately to optimize energy use and increase the daily run time.


Home Run 400 X3

Home Run 400 X3

The Home Run 400 X3 system includes three hanging light points and one portable light that each provide 100 lumens. The system also offers mobile phone charging and dimming switches for each of the light points.
The MSS – Modular Solar Systems is the first product family to be tested as part of Lighting Global’s new Framework for Testing Product Component Families. Following this policy, over half of the individual components were tested, including those incorporated in the two systems described above. The family of products has been issued a Spec Book which presents the results of these component-level tests along with a list of all 15 kits that are now regarded to have passed the Lighting Global Quality Standards.

These MSS – Modular Solar Systems now join all of Niwa’s portable solar products, the Niwa Multi 300 XL, the Niwa Uno 50, and the Niwa Multi 100 Plus, in meeting the Lighting Global Quality Standards. All of Niwa’s solar products offer a 2 year warranty and are CE, RoHS and REACH compliant.


China’s SMQ Lab Joins Lighting Global Quality Testing Network

Lighting Global's Kristen Radecsky given a tour of the SMQ laboratories

Kristen Radecsky (R) of the Lighting Global Quality Assurance team talking with Baojun Li, Senior Engineer (center) and Luhua Peng, Engineer (L) of SMQ during a technical training workshop in November 2014 © Lighting Global

China’s Shenzhen Academy of Metrology and Quality Inspection (SMQ) has joined the Lighting Global quality assurance laboratory network which upholds quality in the off-grid lighting market.

SMQ becomes the 6th laboratory supporting the market development work of the IFC-World Bank energy access program, Lighting Global.

Lighting Global’s quality assurance work is coordinated from the Schatz Energy Research Center, Humboldt University in Arcata, California. This work is supported by a global network of laboratories including the Fraunhofer Institute of Solar Energy in Freiburg, Germany, the Lighting Research Center in Troy, New York, Kenya’s University of Nairobi’s Lighting Laboratory, and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), New Delhi, India.

These labs are located to be in close proximity of manufacturers and consumers in key off-grid lighting markets across Africa and Asia.

SMQ is accredited by the China National Accreditation Service (CNAS) to test off-grid lighting products using methods specified in IEC Technical Specification 6225795. SMQ maintains over 60,000 square meters of laboratory space and has extensive experience testing lighting products, photovoltaic systems, and batteries.

This addition marks an important milestone for Lighting Global, as SMQ is the first private sector commercial laboratory as well as the first laboratory in South China to be involved in quality assurance testing for the program.

Many off-grid lighting products are manufactured in South China therefore SMQ’s quality testing services and the simplified logistics associated with testing products at a location closer to where they are manufactured will be of great value to manufacturers.

“Over the past six years, the Lighting Global network of test labs has tested over 130 products on a commercial basis. Many of these products have had to be shipped from manufacturing centers in China to test labs in Europe or the U.S.,” says Dr. Arne Jacobson, lead of the Lighting Global Quality Assurance team. “Going forward, manufacturers will have the option to obtain these same high quality testing services at a more convenient location.”

Lighting Global managesoff-grid lighting test methods and quality standards, and coordinates product testing through its test laboratory network.

The program also delivers information about product quality to actors along the product supply chains through the Lighting Global website, and other related activities. Companies that are interested in testing pico-solar or related off-grid products with the Lighting Global Quality Assurance program should contact the Lighting Global team to schedule sampling and testing.

Lighting Global also works with pre-approved independent test laboratories outside of the Lighting Global network.

The Role of Solar Lanterns in the Fight Against Ebola

Contents of ebola health and prevention kits distributed in Liberia, including a WakaWaka solar light

Contents of ebola health and prevention kits distributed in Liberia, including a WakaWaka solar light

With over 21,000 infections and more than 8,000 deaths from the Ebola virus since the beginning of the outbreak in 2014, health care facilities in West Africa are strained beyond capacity.  As overcrowded hospitals and clinics are forced to turn away many of those seeking treatment, the infected spread the disease to those caring for them at home. Sean Casey, emergency response team director for the International Medical Corps (IMC) explains, “every week that we don’t open new facilities, we create the need for several more.”

New clinics are being built and existing ones expanded as quickly as possible to care for the ill and to contain the disease, but staff and supplies are desperately needed.  A reliable light source is one of the things often lacking in these clinics, forcing health care workers to resort to the use of flashlights, kerosene lamps, and even candles. The inconveniences and health risks associated with these lighting sources in general are compounded when treating Ebola patients.  Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)’s strict infection control measures require ‘sufficient lighting’ to ensure the safest possible working environment.

Stefan Liljegren, MSF’s field coordinator for a new 160-bed Ebola treatment center in Monrovia explained to The Telegraph that handling Ebola patients requires extreme care at the best of times to prevent infection of the health care workers, and would be dangerous in the dark.Thus, the clinic doesn’t accept new patients after dark, even when this means some die just outside the gates awaiting a chance to be admitted at daybreak.

Lighting Africa MapAs a response to this urgent need for reliable lighting, the Liberian Rural & Renewable Energy Agency (RREA) donated 500 solar lanterns in August to the Ministry of Health for distribution to the Ebola Response Teams working in rural areas of Liberia, where the electrical grid is unlikely to reach.  The donation was made by the Lighting Lives in Liberia Project, which is financed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and administered by the World Bank with support from Lighting Africa.

The lanterns are intended for use in remote communities in each of Liberia’s 15 counties.The lanterns can provide light to clinics without electricity, or serve as a backup in case of power outages or generators that fail or have or run out of fuel.  They also have the capacity to charge mobile phones, allowing health workers to stay in close communication.

WakaWaka is also responding to the crisis by providing their solar lights, which meet Lighting Global Quality Standards, to national and international NGOs for distribution to local health care facilities in Liberia and to include in Ebola prevention kits.

If you would like to donate solar lanterns to clinics in the affected countries, you can do so via WakaWaka or contact us for information on coordinating donations.

‘Library’ of Solar Lights puts pico-PV in the hands of approximately 55,000 rural Senegalese

Lantern Library charging in front of a school

Lantern Library charging in front of a school (picture courtesy of Kat Harrison)

Students in 58 selected rural schools in Senegal were introduced to a different kind of library — a luminothèque – or library of solar lights, thanks to SunnyMoney’s innovative new Light Library model. These libraries allowed students to borrow solar lanterns, so they, along with their families, could experience first hand the benefits of studying after dark using a clean, safe, affordable lighting source.

The schools that received the Light Libraries were chosen based on their lack of electricity, the relatively large student body, and the regions’ high poverty rate, so as to maximize impact. All were in the regions of Kaolack and Kaffrine where prior to the project only 3% of the population owned a solar light, and only 20% had ever even heard of them.

The objectives of the Light Library project, designed and delivered by UK charity SolarAid’s social enterprise SunnyMoney, in partnership with the Senegalese Rural Electrification Agency (ASER) and the Ministry of Education, and funded by Lighting Africa, were to increase awareness of and access to solar lights in off-grid rural areas, in order to support strategies to increase demand and uptake.

In all, 4,798 lights were made available to the Ministry of Education and managed by the schools, giving 6,115 students direct access to the lights. Due to the large average family size in the regions, this means that approximately 55,000 people were directly exposed to the technology.

“It is not safe to buy something you don’t know,” — Aliou Ba, father of 5 school children in the Kaolack region in Senegal, part of a household of 22 people

By creating a low-risk opportunity to test out solar lights, the libraries addressed a common risk-aversion tendency, as expressed by Aliou Ba. Furthermore, the families were able to save the money they would have otherwise spent on alternative lighting sources (most commonly batteries for torches) while trying out the lights at home, providing them with a small fund with which to purchase their own solar light.

“Our average solar light customer will recoup the money spent on their solar light through savings on reducing expenditure on kerosene, candles or batteries within 10 weeks.” – Kat Harrison Director of Research & Impact at SolarAid

LA4Most striking of all was the impact that these lantern libraries had on commercial sales. Following a period to try out the lamps, 35% of families in the Lantern Library regions purchased lanterns (including a remarkable 14% who bough mid-range products that included phone charging capabilities). In contrast control communities with a similar profile in Senegal only had a 15% uptake rate, while in east Africa typical uptake stands at about 10%.

“My children are studying for longer now because other lighting products would not allow them to study for a long time. I am no longer buying batteries for them. It is a very good initiative, we are very grateful.”
– Bourry Sarr, Nioro, Kaolack.

You can learn more about the project in SunnyMoney’s Light Library guide.

SolarWorks! releases new Solar Kit Lithium

Solar Kit Lithium

Solar Kit Lithium

SolarWorks! newest product, the Solar Kit Lithium,was recently tested, and met the Lighting Global Quality Standards.This portable solar light offers three brightness levels and a USB cable with connectors for charging up to 10 different mobile phones or other devices.  The Solar Kit Lithium provides over 7 hours of bright light after a single day of solar charging,or can last for over 40 hours on the lowest setting.

The Solar Kit Lithium may seem familiar as it is a new and improved version of the company’s original product, the Solar Kit, which met the Lighting Global Quality Standards in 2011. SolarWorks! founders Bernard Hulshof and Arnoud de Vroomen first developed the product under the company name Flynn Solar. The company was then purchased by Lemnis Lighting, which later became NTL-Lemnis. After the merger with NTL Electronics, the founders bought back the solar business and formed SolarWorks!

SolarWorks! currently distributes products in 14 countries in Africa and five countries in Europe, and is poised to expand to other markets.

Lighting Africa Extends its Footprint across the Continent

africaAfter a successful pilot phase that enabled more than 28.5 million people across Africa to switch from polluting energy sources such as kerosene to clean, sustainable solar lighting, the joint IFC-World Bank Lighting Africa program has expanded to 10 more countries.

Piloted in Kenya and Ghana, Lighting Africa is now operational in Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

The program takes a two pronged approach drawing both on the private sector expertise of the IFC, and the World Bank’s experience of working with governments to support countries’ goals to increase access to energy, vital for socio-economic growth and development.

Lighting Africa works with the private sector to build sustainable markets for modern off-grid solar lighting products, as well as with rural electrification agencies to promote incorporation of off-grid energy products in governments’ wider energy access programs.

“In the five pilot years of Lighting Africa, we increased access to solar lighting in Kenya from barely 2 percent in 2009 to about 12 percent currently. We are optimistic we can replicate the Kenyan success across Africa and enable about half of the unelectrified population (250 million) access to electricity for the first time through modern solar lighting products by 2030,” says Itotia Njagi, the IFC Lighting Africa Program Manager.

Lighting Africa has undertaken market and consumer studies in the additional countries to establish the feasibility of markets for solar lighting products, and is in the process of rolling out a variety of market development activities.

In Ethiopia, the program has gone a step further and brokered a government-run foreign exchange facility, which has enabled product importers and distributors to build product stocks in-country.  As of October, about US$ 3.6 million from this facility has been disbursed for importing and distributing solar lanterns, solar home systems (SHS) and energy saving bulbs.

In Nigeria, the program will soon launch a consumer education campaign to build awareness on the available quality-verified solar lighting products in the country. A more in-depth market research study will also be undertaken to better inform new market entrants and other players along the supply chain of the opportunities and challenges.

The success of the joint IFC-World Bank Lighting Africa pilot has also inspired new off-grid lighting market development programs in Bangladesh, India and in Papua New Guinea. Other countries where similar programs are under development include Indonesia and Pakistan.

“Lighting Africa has provided an important foundation for the dynamic off-grid solar device industry. It has given us the confidence that the market development approach works in enabling the private sector deliver modern energy services to the energy poor. We are replicating this model not only in Africa, but also in Asia and other regions,” says Russell Sturm, IFC’s Global Head of Energy Access Advisory.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Solar Lights Quality-Verified

Lighting Global has developed a step-by-step guide to the process and options for quality verification of modern solar lighting products in accordance with the IEC Technical Specification 62257-9-5.

The step-by-step guide is presented in the form of an easy-to-follow flow chart that provides details for the entire quality verification process – from initial engagement with the Quality Assurance Team, through the testing process, to the benefits received by meeting the Quality Standards.

Lighting Global uses three tests in verifying product quality: the quick Initial Screening Method (ISM), the comprehensive Quality Test Method (QTM), and the Market Check Method (MCM). The step-by-step guide explains the procedure and timeline for arranging each type of test, as well as providing links to important references.

Lighting Global undertakes the quality verification work through a global network of laboratories in Africa, Asia, Europe and the America. It also offers clients the flexibility to test products using independent accredited labs.

The online step-by-step guide provides a comprehensive set of documents and policies related to product testing, including the latest version of the Lighting Global Quality Standards. The guide’s resources explain important aspects of the quality verification process, including the procedure, logistics and costs of product quality testing, how product sampling is done for testing, how results are communicated, as well as standard specification sheets and verification letters. In short, the new step-by-step guide is your consolidated reference for understanding the ins and outs of the Lighting Global Quality Assurance Program.

Lighting Global supports the development of sustainable markets for modern, off-grid lighting products designed for low-income un-electrified communities by, among other activities, developing a quality assurance framework for the industry, and helping uphold industry quality standards through product quality verification.

Solar Lighting Products Improve Energy Access for 28.5 Million People in Africa

Solar Lights Overview

More than 28.5 million people across Africa now have access to modern lighting as a result of switching from kerosene lanterns to solar lighting products, according to results from the IFC-World Bank Lighting Africa program.

Families not connected to grid electricity in Africa spend some USD 10 billion every year on kerosene to light up their homes. By switching to solar and other sources of clean lighting, the kerosene expenditure could be directed towards improving the education and health of their families, and start life transforming income generating activities.

In 2009, less than one percent of the population in Africa was using modern LED solar lighting products.Now about five percent (4.8%) of the population is using solar lighting as a result of Lighting Africa’s market development work, implemented in partnership with various players along the supply chain.

“At this rate we are confident that sustainable energy for all in the next 15 years is indeed achievable as the market for modern solar lights doubles every year,” says Itotia Njagi, the IFC Lighting Africa Program Manager.

Aggregated sales data from distributors and marketers of quality-verified solar lighting products shows that the market recorded110 percent growth for the year ended July 2014, pointing to the large unmet demand for clean energy products and systems in Africa.

The IFC-World Bank Lighting Africa is currently working with 39 client companies who have brought to market a wide choice of durable, affordable solar lighting products that are providing not only lighting services, but also communication services, through cellphone charging, to families not connected to grid electricity, or with unreliable supply.

“What is all the more encouraging is that we have created  demand for not only clean lighting products at the bottom of the pyramid, but also for a wider range of energy services available to those connected to grid electricity,” adds Itotia Njagi.

The African market for off-grid solar lighting has seen a number of transformations in the past four years.Consumers are asking for larger energy systems that can power more than one light and appliances such as fans, radios and television.

There has also been a marked shift towards product quality and durability in response to consumer demands; products that meet the Lighting Global quality standards now command half (50%) the off-grid market share up from barely 3% in 2009.

Niwa partners with Sun Transfer to Assemble Solar Products in Ethiopia


Photo Caption: Employees at the assembly plant at work © Niwa

Photo Caption: Employees at the assembly plant at work © Niwa

Niwa and SunTransfer have partnered to set up a company that will assemble solar products in Ethiopia. The new venture – STM Solar Technologies Manufacturing S.C. will among other things produce solar lanterns and modular solar home lighting kits.

“With the assembling in Ethiopia, we hope to increase value for consumers as well as to make it possible for Ethiopian distribution and retail companies to purchase the most advanced solar products in local currency,” says Ti el Attar, Founder and Executive Director of Niwa.

Niwa, manufacturer of the Uno 50 task light, the Multi 100 plus and Multi 300 lighting products, brings to the partnership its production and quality control expertise amassed from managing solar production facilities in China and Hong Kong.

Niwa has trained and built capacity of local staff, passing on their knowledge and expertise in order to achieve the same performance and high international quality standards of the products assembled in Ethiopia.

The assembly plant will help the two companies improve product supply and availability, and scale up distribution. Through the partnership, local warehouses have been built to enable customers to flexibly purchase product supplies without having to step into the importer role with its significant financing, logistics and time constraints, says Mr el Attar.

Sun Transfer, on its part, will bring about 10 years of work experience in Ethiopia and a national network of Solar Centers where consumers are taught how to install and use products. The Solar Centers also provide consumer credit and after-sales service and maintenance support over the full product life-cycle.

“Ours is a unique collaboration for Africa’s second largest solar market and a new level of commitment to the local people,” says Ti el Attar.

More than 85 percent of rural households in Ethiopia rely on fuel-based light sources, predominantly kerosene. On average, rural households use kerosene lighting for 3 hours per day and spend about US$2 per month on kerosene.

IFC-World Bank Study Establishes Significant Climate Benefit of Solar Lighting Products

Children on the outskirts of Dakar use a solar-powered reading light to do their homework © Bruno Demeocq/Lighting Africa

Children on the outskirts of Dakar use a solar-powered reading light to do their homework © Bruno Demeocq/Lighting Africa

A new research study published by the IFC-World Bank Lighting Global program finds that replacing all kerosene lamps in use with solar lights would reduce the equivalent of 5 percent annual greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, or 12 percent of India’s annual emissions.

The study confirms that modern solar lighting products designed for low income families without access to grid electricity are far more energy efficient than widely used kerosene lamps.

“Fuel-based lamps require a small amount of energy to manufacture, but then consume a large amount of energy through fuel burnt daily. A solar-powered electric light, by contrast, requires a larger energy investment to manufacture, but consumes no further fuel because it generates its power from the sun,” says Dr. Arne Jacobson, technical lead for Lighting Global, a sister program to the IFC-World Bank Lighting Africa program.Dr. Jacobson is also a Director of the Schatz Energy Research Center at Humboldt State University.

The study found that quality-verified solar lanterns, which have been championed and promoted by the Lighting Africa program since its inception in 2007, typically reduce a family’s consumption of kerosene for lighting by at least 50 percent. Such lamps can completely replace kerosene-fueled lamps from a household.

“Replacing kerosene lights with solar powered products thus represents a local solution that has significant positive global implications,” says Dr Jacobson. Today 1.4 billion people across the globe rely on fuel-based lighting such as kerosene that emit carbon dioxide and black carbon (soot).

The study, titled Energy and Carbon Benefits of Pico Powered Lighting, reviewed small modern solar powered lighting products designed for households in off-grid areas or locations with unreliable grid electricity. They include flash lights, portable lanterns, task and ambient lights, as well as solar home lighting kits that can light more than one room and power appliances such as radios, fans and TV sets.

The study is part of a series of Technical and Eco Design Briefing Notes published by the Lighting Global program to build knowledge on various aspects of modern off-grid lighting products designed and developed for the consumers not connected to grid electricity.

The study used an energy return on investment (EROI) analysis to estimate savings. The study found that an EROI of 1.0 represents a product that saves exactly as much energy as the energy it consumes. The EROI ratios for pico-solar were found to be quite high—about 15‐45 (depending on the kerosene replacement scenario) for products with a 2-year lifespan. While upfront costs are higher, these products pay for themselves many times over from an energy perspective.

Quality verified solar products often have a lifespan of two years, although some last longer. Because of their energy efficiency and use of no fuel, they are able to very quickly offset the energy used in their manufacture and transportation when compared with kerosene lamps. The simple energy payback for such solar lighting products was found to be between one to three months for the products evaluated by the study.