Most people agree that solar energy is a great resource. This clean and natural energy, when correctly harnessed, could help curb our reliance on fossil fuels. But there are a few problems to work out, particularly when it comes to residential power. Top among those are prohibitive costs that keep people from taking advantage of all that solar power has to offer. However, several firms in Africa have devised a pay-as-you-go system that turns this system on its head.
Off-grid solar energy systems are big business in Africa, and it’s easy to see why. The concept offers a simple solution to the energy crisis that plagues a significant portion of the population — for an impressively low cost. A battery is attached to a rooftop panel, which is wired through the house connected to LED lights. Once a household pays the fee, power will begin instantly with no lag time. Best of all, these pay-as-you-go systems don’t tax the already straining electrical grid (or suffer when there’s a blackout).
The cost is a key factor in the success of this technology; by keeping the price low, firms are able to bring in customers and keep them coming back for more. A year’s worth of use will run a house around $220, and includes all the necessary equipment and installations. The significance of this technology in remote areas that the electrical grid doesn’t reach cannot be overstated. Families that have been forced for years to rely on kerosene lamps and flashlights suddenly have affordable and reliable solar power at their fingertips, for a price that won’t break the bank.
So why isn’t off-the-grid power sweeping the globe? There are practical problems that can’t be overlooked: at their current levels, the power is too weak to run major appliances, which keeps the systems from being a hit in urban areas. Then there is pushback from electrical companies, which are working overtime to stem this flow of pay-as-you-go power that could cut into their profits.
But despite the challenges, these solar power systems have enormous support. Scientists are working on streamlining them so they run faster, stronger, and for even lower costs. Environmentally friendly, efficient, and inexpensive — with a little tweaking, pay-as-you-go solar power could light up the world.