Chemistry helps bring light to people living in remote regions

Electricity does not come easily to those who live off the beaten path on the Navajo reservation in rural Arizona. Many residents like Anna Begay, a grandmother in her late 80s, recently featured in an NBCNews.com story, lack access to an electricity grid. They turn to alternative methods for lighting and power, or go without it altogether.

Living without a light source can be quite difficult, as Begay related:

It got really, really dark and I would be running into things, bumping into things. It did help to have the moon. Sometimes, when the moon’s out, that would illuminate the way for me.

Fortunately for Begay, a solar panel installed by Eagle Energy, a Denver-based nonprofit, now lights her home after the sun sets.

A similar story is being played out in developing countries around the world, where access to electricity in remote regions is often the exception, not the rule.

According to the World Bank, more than 1.2 billion people, or 20% of the world’s population, do not have access to electricity. Most live in developing countries, including 550 million in Africa and more than 400 million in India.

World Bank and International Financial Corporation programs such as Lighting Africa and Lighting Asia aim to change those statistics for the better by developing the market for solar-powered lights. Eagle Energy, the nonprofit that installed Begay’s small solar array, is also helping out in Africa under the name Elephant Energy.

One of the reasons solar-powered lighting is gaining in popularity is the increased use of long-lasting LED bulbs, according to Arne Jacobson, an environmental resource engineer at Humboldt State University who was interviewed by NBC:

It is hard to exaggerate how quickly LED performance is going up and price is going down.

Chemistry is a key player in enabling energy innovations such as solar photovoltaics and LED technology. From the silicon in solar cells, to solar shingles, to the semiconducting material used in LEDs, chemistry is lighting the way for millions of people around the world.

Find more energy innovations at ChemistryToEnergy.com

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