For consumer solar lights to play their vital and inevitable role in developing countries, they must be not only be affordable but also dependable. The only way to find those bottoms lines is by asking end users.
For the third year the organization (funded by the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation) has chosen the best solar lights as part of its Off-Grid Lighting Business Conference and Trade Fair in Dakar, Senegal.
The awards were based on affordability, acceptability and performance in three price categories, and all had to be acceptable to end users canvassed in Senegal, Kenya and parts of India. All the products included power panel and bulb combinations.
The winner in the budget section (up to $30) went to a market newcomer Marathoner, a U.S.-based solar player, for its Beacon MB2 090 system. Second place went to Australian stalwart Barefoot Power for its Firefly Mobile.
In the mid-range category ($31-$72), long-time market player Greenlight Planet from India won for its Sunking Pro.Second place went to Trony’s Sundial TSL01, a notable selection because this is a Chinese firm that is helping the industry get past its prejudice against solar lights that are made by Chinese companies. (Most solar lights are made in China, but by foreign producers.)
Only one premium ($73-$135) product earned an award, the Marathoner Beacon MB2 380.
Judges included experts from the United Nations, World Bank, Humbolt State University and GIZ, a German development agency.